Afghan refugees in the GTA were frustrated by several, sudden movements between hotels

Maan Alhmidi, Canadian Press

Published Thursday, November 11, 2021 at. 21:22 EST

TORONTO – Sayed Enaiatullah Najafizada and his wife are frustrated.

Afghan refugees face the prospect of being moved between hotels in the Greater Toronto area for the fourth time since arriving in Canada this summer.

They are among nearly 400 Afghan refugees being relocated to new temporary housing on Thursday and Friday – from a hotel in Richmond Hill, Ont., To a hotel in the eastern end of Toronto – while waiting for their applications for permanent residence to treated prior to a move to permanent residence.

Some refugees say the many movements disrupt the connections they build in the local community, creating instability for children who have to change schools as a result of the relocations.

“Are we traveling around the hotels in Toronto, or do they have a plan that we are laying out here,” Najafizada said.

“Visiting the hotels is not very pleasant. I know it’s always good to stay in the hotel when you’re traveling, but when it’s home for you … then you’re frustrated, you’re disappointed.”

Najafizada, 32, said he and his wife were placed by a settlement agency at a hotel in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto, when they arrived in Canada on August 27 after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. The couple was moved to another hotel in Mississauga, Ont., In September, before being brought back to the first hotel last month.

The settlement agency, which provides services to the refugees, put up signs on the walls of the Richmond Hill hotel on Monday, informing the refugees that they were being relocated this week, Najafizada said, noting that the signs did not explain why the relocation was made.

Adding to his frustration, Najafizada said, is the fact that he has been waiting nearly a month and a half for the federal government to process his family’s application.

“I do not know what the problem is here,” he said. “If the Canadian government is overwhelmed, if they can not do that, then do not bring people from outside.”

Abdulrahman Rahman, another Afghan refugee, said the frequent change of locations is detrimental to the connections he has built in the area.

“In Richmond Hill, we found some friends, we adapted to the environment, we found some good connections,” he said. “We have a plan to find a house in the Richmond Hill area because it’s a very quiet area, and we also found some organizations they help us find a job.”

He said his brother’s two children, who started school in Richmond Hill, will now have to start over in eastern Toronto.

The CEO of COSTI, the settlement agency, said his organization moved the refugees to another hotel because more space was needed for new arrivals, which is expected soon.

Mario Calla said the current hotel is not fully booked for Afghan refugees – other guests also use the hotel – and his organization’s services are usually more accessible when the entire hotel is booked for refugees.

“We want the whole hotel, want another 90 rooms to work with,” he said of the latest move. “We can concentrate the services there.”

Calla also said that refugees’ social contacts are typically disrupted when they move to permanent residence from hotels.

“It’s a concern, but they probably will not settle in that community,” he said.

Calla said 332 Afghan refugees have been housed in permanent housing in the Toronto area, while 720 are temporarily staying in hotels.

A spokesman for the federal immigration ministry said the government takes refugee feedback seriously.

“(The department) uses the experiences we have learned and the feedback from refugees to improve the hotels,” Alexander Cohen said. “As refugees move from hotels to their final destinations and new people arrive, services … are continually rebalanced to meet current needs.”

Ottawa has committed to resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees, with nearly 9,500 approved so far and 3,325 now in Canada.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2021.

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