Community Organizer Elaborates Problems Facing Asylum Seekers

In a radio interview on January 24, Eva Gracia-Turgeon, the coordinator at Foyer du Monde (Home of the World), explained that the community is being increasingly called upon to respond to the needs of asylum seekers, particularly with regard to access to services. Foyer du Monde is part of the coalition of community organizations fighting in defence of asylum seekers. She added that housing is one of the most crying needs.

She explained that in Quebec, rather than having a system where all are under the responsibility of the Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA), at present PRAIDA is actually only taking care of one out of every four, or 25 per cent of asylum seekers. The others, she explained, are being kept in federally-managed hotels, where the only service provided is assistance to fill out refugee applications. Because they are not being provided any other services, they are seeking help in nearby neighbourhoods. The community organizations being called upon for assistance are not being provided with any additional government funding.

Those lucky enough to fall under the purview of PRAIDA are under their charge for two weeks, and no one knows what happens to them after that, Eva Gracia-Turgeon said.

Quebec and the federal government share responsibility for immigration because of the Canada-Québec Accord. Eva Gracia-Turgeon says there is a gray area concerning asylum seekers and all those with temporary status for that matter, including temporary workers, and persons without status are not part of the agreement.

"So Quebec wants money to manage the territory and in that regard, the federal government is in negotiations to look at how much to give. ... It's the families on the ground that are paying for the political impasse," she said.

Regarding the coalition's request that the Quebec Council of Ministers' 1996 decision limiting access to public services for asylum seekers, Eva Gracia-Turgeon clarified that "in fact, what we want is for asylum seekers to be treated like all immigrants.... Because of that decision, all the services financed by the Ministry of Immigration are not accessible to asylum seekers. Here, I'm referring to the services called the Integration and Accompaniment Assistance Program (PASI) that are accessible to all Quebec permanent residents."

She explained that the coalition is also asking for access to subsidized child care services. "We have people here who want nothing more than to work, who are having difficulty getting their work permit. However, that's another federally-regulated issue, with all the delays linked to it. But they're here and they just want to work and unfortunately, because there are no employment services available to them, they're mostly forced to deal with the agencies. And we're all aware of all the problems related to the agencies at present. We've heard a lot about them. It's not a place where as an employee or a worker, you're protected."

(Radio-Canada. Quotations translated from original French by TML.)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - February 2023

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