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Newly released figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada show that the federal government spent over $100 million housing asylum seekers at hotels in Niagara Falls over the past year. Nearly 5,000 asylum seekers were sent to hotels in the tourist city, with most coming from Nigeria, Venezuela, Kenya, Turkey, and Colombia. The refugees stayed for an average of 113 days at a daily cost of $208 per person, totaling roughly $115 million for the year. The costs included rooms, meals, services, and security, but the tally is considered incomplete as expenses were not fully monitored during the first part of 2023. Invoices from expenses incurred since Jan. 1, 2024, have not yet been tallied.

The breakdown of costs was revealed in response to an order paper question filed by Conservative MP Tony Baldinelli in the House of Commons. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati was unavailable for comment on the figures, but a report from Niagara Region last year noted that the influx of asylum seekers was putting substantial pressure on the region’s social support system. The report expressed concerns about the lack of affordable housing options for asylum seekers after their hotel stays. The immigration department stated that access to federally funded hotels for asylum claimants in Niagara Falls is being provided on a temporary basis, but the duration of the program is unclear.

In July 2022, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada began sending migrants arriving in Quebec to hotels in Niagara Falls to alleviate pressure on services in the province. The move followed the closure of an unofficial border crossing between Quebec and New York state in March 2023, leading to a surge in refugee claims at Canadian airports. Despite efforts to manage the flow of asylum seekers, immigration lawyer Chantale Desloges believes that global instability is contributing to the rise in migration. Ontario and Quebec have linked the housing crisis to the influx of temporary residents and asylum seekers, prompting calls for immigration policy reform.

In January of this year, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced an additional $362 million to temporarily house asylum seekers across the country. He noted that there were approximately 7,300 asylum claimants staying in 4,000 hotel rooms in six provinces. While the program aims to provide shelter for those in need, Miller emphasized the need for systemic reform to address the ongoing challenges posed by large flows of migration. Quebec received $100 million from the funding, with Toronto also receiving a significant amount. However, Ontario’s immigration minister expressed concerns that the allocated funds may not be sufficient to meet the needs of Toronto and other municipalities. As pressure mounts to address the housing crisis and immigration policies, the federal government continues to navigate the complex landscape of refugee assistance and support.

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