Canada's biggest city Toronto unable to take more refugees: mayor

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s biggest city is unable to accommodate any more asylum seekers, Toronto’s mayor said on Tuesday, after temporary resettlements used to house them reached near full capacity.

FILE PHOTO: Raul Contreras, 19, of Honduras, who is seeking refugee status in Canada, balances on the bars of an elevator at a long-stay hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

“We have exhausted our available sites, our resources and our personnel,” Mayor John Tory said ahead of a council meeting, as he sought help from provincial and federal governments to resettle new arrivals.

This comes after Toronto activated an emergency contingency plan in May to shelter refugee claimants as it was bracing for an influx of migrants over summer.

The rare move underscored the strain caused by the inflow of asylum seekers in Canada, which has seen more than 30,000 asylum seekers illegally crossing the Canada-U.S. border since U.S. President Donald Trump came to office last year.

Toronto is currently housing over 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers in city hotels and college dormitories, Tory said.

Asylum seekers and refugee claimants will have to vacate the dormitories by Aug. 9, when college students resume their studies. The dormitories are currently housing more than 600 individuals - over 200 are children.

After that date, “we will not have the facilities, resources or personnel to accommodate those 800 people,” Tory added.

Tory stated he was informed about opportunities and housing outside of Toronto and urged the Canadian government to help.

“Unless this immediate relief is offered by federal and provincial governments, Toronto will not have the ability to accommodate new arrivals to our city,” said Tory.

The mayor emphasized on Toronto’s long history of welcoming newcomers and the city’s support of the Canadian government’s policies regarding refugees and asylum seekers.

“But we cannot shelter and settle them on our own, even as Canada’s largest city,” he said.

Reporting by Danya Hajjaji; Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Marguerita Choy