Dear Friends of Adam House,
COVID-19 is rocking the world and many of you may be wondering how it is impacting refugees, and more specifically, Adam House.
We have taken several precautions at Adam House including:
-cancelling our Tuesday and Friday evening programs
-reducing staff hours and asking volunteers not to come until the situation improves
-eliminating drop-in services
-talking to residents about hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces in the house, and social distancing
We have also asked our residents to stop looking for housing for now, and we have no plans to fill empty beds for the time being.
Worldwide the situation is extremely precarious for refugees, particularly those residing in refugee camps where living conditions are cramped and access to adequate healthcare, limited.
For more, check out this article: You Can’t Practice Social Distancing if You’re a Refugee.
In Canada we have closed down our borders to refugees, including irregular arrivals. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement, several points which bear repeating:
“…wars and persecution have not stopped – and today, across the globe, people are continuing to flee their homes in search of safety. I am increasingly worried by measures adopted by some countries that could block altogether the right to seek asylum.
All states must manage their borders in the context of this unique crisis as they see fit. But these measures should not result in closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger.
Solutions exist. If health risks are identified, screening arrangements can be put in place, together with testing, quarantine and other measures. These will enable authorities to manage the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees in a safe manner, while respecting international refugee protection standards designed to save lives.”
Closer to home, the Canadian Council for Refugees issued a press release insisting that, “With increasing travel restrictions, fewer people are presenting themselves to make a claim: Canada has the capacity to admit them [refugees] in accordance with the law, while ensuring that they go into isolation as required by Public Health officials.”
While this is certainly a trying time for everyone, refugee claimants are facing some unique challenges:
For those in refugee homes or shelters, it is more difficult to practice social distancing. The number of people in residence, increases everyone’s chance of exposure.
Refugee claimants are already socially isolated as newcomers, lonely and experiencing a sense of loss.
Refugee claimants regularly access many services that are temporarily closed. They are facing delays in settlement due to cancellation of ESL classes and training programs.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has cancelled all hearings until further notice. Hundreds of hearings have been cancelled. In a system already experiencing a massive backlog, this is a huge setback. Although we understand the need for this closure, it is certainly disappointing for refugees who are anxiously waiting to settle down and reunite with family.
They are also facing delays in settlement because they cannot continue to look for housing and employment at this time.
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