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Windsor city council asks feds to place asylum seekers in hotels outside downtown

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There are 743 asylum seekers currently living in two hotels in Windsor and city council wants to see if they can be put in hotels outside the city centre to avoid capacity issues during the summer tourism season.

The idea was brought forward by Ward 8 Councillor Gary Kaschak.

“We really would like those downtown hotel spaces to be available and clear and we don't want people to come to events downtown and have to stay in a way out on the edge of town,” said Kaschak.

This time last year, Windsor had more than 1400 asylum-claimants staying in three hotels in Windsor.

It became a real problem last summer when the city hosted an swimming event and hotels downtown were at capacity.

This year, the number of asylum claimants are down to half the number, staying at two undisclosed hotels.

One is downtown and Kaschak is hoping to get that space freed-up.

“We'd like to have, you know, the real real visitors in those prime hotel room locations,” said Kaschak. “And not, you know, run into the no vacancy sign.”

The federal government pays to put the asylum claimants up in hotels while they wait for the cases to be heard.

“The city has limited control as to what we could direct them to do,” said Andrew Daher, the city’s commissioner of health and human services.

 

Council agreed to write a letter to the feds asking them to consider this request.

“We can definitely put forward the recommendation as per council to request that if there's an opportunity that they look at moving you know the hotels at at a different time,” Daher said.

Despite the many things going on this summer, tourism officials aren’t projecting Windsor hotels will run into the same capacity issues.

“At this point in time, we don't have anything that's going to create some sort of a pinch in the system,” said Gordon Orr, the CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island.

Orr said hotel occupancy is up three per cent year over year and it currently sitting at the 67-70 per cent occupancy mark.

It’s unclear what percentage of hotel spaces are being taken up by asylum claimants as these could be large families in one room, or single occupants.

Orr doesn’t believe the city will experience the same problems with capacity again.

“We have a roster of sporting events and larger events that are coming to town. We do know that less inventory is being taken up by the asylum claimants at present time, so we're not necessarily looking at something being problematic,” he said.

These claimants are coming from warn torn environments in Kenya, Nigeria and Turkey but Daher tells CTV Windsor the number is steadily shrinking.

“We've done a phenomenal job, trying to help many of these individuals, whether it be finding employment, whether getting them connected into our community through classes like English as second language, and some have just actually left the community,” said Daher.

The decision ultimately lies with the federal government, which has its own rules and contracts to consider.

But Kaschak is hopeful they can work together to benefit both the asylum seekers and the city’s emerging goals for downtown Windsor.

“I think it's a reasonable ask of the federal government and I know they're paying but these are the kinds of things that we should be able to collaborate on and make it work for them, make it work for us and make it work for the asylum claimants,” said Kaschak.

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