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Second African migrant dies while waiting for shelter space in Mississauga

“It was freezing. Minus 8,” Pastor Eddie Jjumba told Global News, remembering last Saturday, Feb. 17.

It was the same day, he says, that an asylum seeker named ‘Delphina’, arrived at the Dundas Shelter near Dixie Road and Dundas Street East, from Kenya, seeking warm refuge. But Jjumba says she was denied that for several hours, before finally being allowed inside that night. By the following Sunday morning, she was pronounced dead in hospital.

“It is the second time an African asylum seeker has died…waiting for a warm place,” Jjumba told Global News in a sit-down interview in his office at Milliken Methodist Church in Markham.

The first instance happened just three months ago, when another asylum seeker — a Nigerian man, Jjumba says — died while camped outside the same shelter in November 2023.

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On Friday, advocates from African Canadian groups, faith groups and refugee-serving organizations held a news conference, calling on the government to do more.

“No one leaves their country to come seeking refuge, to die,” said one advocate at the press conference.

“We have to ask ourselves as Canadians whether this is who we want to be,” said another. “We have always complained about what is going on in the United States when it comes to the treatment of minority communities. But we are doing it right here! In Toronto, in Mississauga, in Canada!”

“This is happening during Black History Month, a time when we’re supposed to be reflecting on the work of Black people throughout history,” he continued. “Instead, we are continuing to see these tragedies that are happening.”

Late last month, Ottawa announced an additional $362 million to help house the growing influx of asylum seekers into the country. At a press conference on Friday when Premier Ford announced more funding for housing in Brampton’s mayor, Patrick Brown, remarked it’s critical the federal government do more to address the refugee shelter crisis.

“I found out yesterday we’re now at 400 per cent capacity. 400 per cent capacity!” said Brown. “This is at the doorsteps at Pearson right now. We’re seeing it. I’ll be meeting with the Federal minister on Monday to really highlight that this is a humanitarian crisis, and we need help.”

Jjumba, who helped organize Friday’s event, says leaders can start by opening up a reception center to welcome refugees with dignity. Something he says Delphina, a widow, was not afforded — widow who leaves behind two orphaned boys in Kenya.

“They had hoped that when she comes here for them to eventually join her from whatever she was running away from,” said Jjumba.

“Now we are going to send her back in a coffin.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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