As coronavirus wreaks havoc, these precarious workers have ‘no one to turn to’

Construction worker Cesar Paredes, whose wife is due with their first child on May 29, was told by his foreman last Friday that there’s no job for him and 10 other crew members as construction work slowed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike his Canadian colleagues, the undocumented worker from Mexico is not eligible for employment insurance or any provincial or financial aid for those who have lost their jobs due to the crisis.

Paredes’ only social safety net is his physical labour — and some savings, which he says have been depleted after he paid thousands of dollars to an immigration consultant for a promised work permit that was never delivered.

“Half of the guys on our crew are like me, from Latin America, with no status in Canada. We have looked for other jobs, but there are no jobs out there,” said the 31-year-old Toronto man, who worked as an engineer in the oil and gas industry before coming here in 2018 as a tourist.

“I have $300 left. We have no money for rent. I don’t know how long the money will last. At least my Canadian colleagues can still keep afloat. I have nothing but an unknown future.

Over the last two weeks, Toronto’s FCJ Refugee Centre has been fielding calls from people with precarious immigration status, who have been let go from their jobs and are in need of food and shelter.

“I had three calls today alone from people who had no food in their fridge and were facing eviction from their apartment next month,” said Francisco Rico-Martinez, the centre’s co-director.

“Migrant workers, non-status people, international students and temporary residents are the most vulnerable because there’s a lack of language and understanding of the system, and they have no idea of what resources are out there for them, if any.”

His group is one of more than three dozen community organizations in Ontario that are urging all levels of governments to extend their COVID-19 income support and essential services to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

Since March 16, more than a million Canadians have applied for employment insurance as the pandemic ravages Canada’s economy.

The federal government has rolled out the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, among other measures, to provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose income as a result of the pandemic.

However, the government assistance is designed for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and won’t be available to most of those in the country with temporary status, said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto.

“Ninety per cent of these people work in restaurants, factories and nail salons. They are paid cash under the table. Their employers don’t file their income taxes,” said Go, whose office has fielded a couple dozen COVID-19 aid-related inquiries a day the past week.

“It’s not like they would have access to EI and other benefits before the pandemic, but if they were let go, they could find another job. But now there are no jobs to be had. The crisis has simply exposed the pre-existing gaps in our social safety net.”

Caline Gusmao, an international student enrolled in Seneca College, said her partner worked in a bar to support the two of them, but was let go by her boss on March 15.

With all their previous savings going toward tuition — $14,000 a year — for her two-year social service worker program, they were already living paycheque to paycheque before the pandemic.

“We don’t have any family and friends here. We have no benefits. If we don’t work, we have no income. All migrants are in the same boat,” said the Brazilian, 27, who came to Canada in January 2019 and is set to graduate in June.

“We have no one to turn to. My partner is delivering food through UberEats now, but everything is closing. The money is just enough for us to get food. We don’t know how we are going to pay our rent,” which comes to $1,800 a month.

But trying to secure food and shelter is not all Gusmao is worried about. With no end in sight to the pandemic and growing fear of a looming recession, she doubts she’ll be able to land a job in her field upon her graduation. A job is necessary if she and her partner have any hope of acquiring permanent residence in Canada.

“If the pandemic doesn’t end soon, we don’t know what to do,” said Gusmao, who has a law degree from Brazil. “We all come here with a dream. I want to fulfil my dream. I need the work experience to have a chance for permanent residence.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/01/as-coronavirus-wreaks-havoc-these-precarious-workers-have-no-one-to-turn-to.html

Services and Resources during the present health crisis

We care about your health and wellbeing and want to make sure you are informed. Please find useful information in our resource booklet HOW TO… FIND HELP 

This is a toolkit with information about how to find support during the crisis of the COVID-19.

The document provides helpful resources. Keep in mind that most of the information is focused in Toronto and it might change depending on the situation of the health emergency.

CONTENT:
(Immigration and settlement support) 

-How COVID-19 is impacting immigration and refugee procedures
-Exemptions & travel restrictions
-How to make a refugee claim inland under COVID 19 instructions
-Processing times and extensions
-Health support
-Access to foodbanks
-Shelter in Toronto
-What to do in domestic violence situations
-Access to Ontario Works
-ETC.

OPEN LETTER – WE CANNOT LEAVE ANYONE BEHIND

More than 30 community organizations and groups in Ontario endorsed an Open Letter in Solidarity with Migrant Workers, Non-Status individuals and their families as community workers, organizers, volunteers, teachers, students and residents of Ontario, Canada.

The letter is in Solidarity with Migrant Workers, Non-Status individuals and their families as community workers, organizers, volunteers, teachers, students and residents of Ontario, Canada.

In unique times like this, Canadians must come together and not leave anyone behind.
Walking together with uprooted people and in solidarity:

To read the letter click here

Ready Tours scheduled between March 17th and April 3rd are cancelled

Considering recent developments related to COVID-19, please be advised that Ready Tours scheduled between March 17th and April 3rd are cancelled. Keep in consideration that effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all in-person hearings and mediations were postponed until further notice. Please contact us after the first week of April for details on the upcoming Refugee Hearing Tours scheduled in April.

More information about  postponed refugee hearings  click here: https://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/news/2020/Pages/covid19-advisory-notice.aspx

More information about the Ready Tour Registrations:

http://www.fcjrefugeecentre.org/ready-tour-registration/

IN SOLIDARITY WITH PRECARIOUS MIGRANTS WE WILL STILL BE SERVING PEOPLE WHO ARE IN URGENT NEED

The FCJ Refugee Centre continues to work in solidarity with precarious migrants. We recognize that these populations are severely affected by every single precarity already as racialized and marginalized persons, and with the health and safety of our entire community in mind, we will be making some adjustments to our daily work environment. We will continue to remotely offer as many services as possible by phone, e-mail, or any other electronic means available to us.

We are encouraging our staff and volunteers to continue working from home and come to the office only when necessary. Working from the office is only recommended if they do not need to take public transportation or if they feel comfortable doing so and the ride is not long. We are also committed to practicing cleanliness and social distancing at the office as per the recommendations by the public health.

Due to all the information listed above, and with the encouragement of staff, as of today until further notice, we will switch our way of delivering services to:

Limiting in-person services to the most urgent, moving towards phone, email and any other electronic ways available to us. Particularly related to applications and procedures where the relevant Federal and Provincial institutions have relaxed deadlines, and increased flexibility of their appointments and intake.

For any inquiries on any issue or situation related to immigration and refugee process, as well as about all our services please either contact us at the emails below or call 416-469-9754 and dial the extension below:

Loly Rico, co-director: Ext. 224 lolyrico@fcjrefugeecentre.org

Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director: Ext. 227 franciscorico@fcjrefugeecentre.org

Diana Gallego, Associate Director: Ext. 225 dianagallego@fcjrefugeecentre.org

 

We will still be serving clients who are in urgent need due to deadlines that are still in effect, or fundamental needs, while limiting their presence in the office to the most minimum (e.g. one family member). Such clients will only come after they confirm that they haven’t had any recent travel outside of Canada, haven’t been in contact with anyone who has travelled recently, don’t have any presenting Covid-19 symptoms, and haven’t been in contact with anyone with Covid-19 symptoms (cough, fever etc.)

Until further notice, the Primary Care Clinic, which is managed by the Inner City Health Associates, will provide appointments on a virtual care mode or via phone as need. If clients need to renew medication we encourage them to call our Centre and we will explain the procedures.

We have cancelled all our group sessions & workshops until further notice.

We thank you for your patience in this time and look forward to continuing to work together with all uprooted people and our entire community.

In Solidarity,

The FCJ Refugee Centre Team

Changes on Intake Mondays

Dear friends  , we wanted to update you on some changes we are doing during our INTAKE DAY  on Mondays.

To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, FCJ REFUGEE CENTRE changed the DROP INS on Mondays to orientations by phone or by e-mail.  If you want to refer clients to us please provide them with the following contact information:

416-469 97 54  with Alexandra or Email info@fcjrefugeecentre.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

r. Norma’s ministry with Migrants event is cancelled

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande valley informed us today that the covid-19 (coronavirus), as well as possible quarantines pose a threat to Sr. Norma’s ministry with susceptible refugees at the USA-Mexican border. As such, they are cancelling all of sr. Norma’s travel plans and will reschedule this event in Toronto for a later date. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience this may present to you. Together in solidarity with all refugees, migrants and those who work with them.

FILMMAKING YOUTH PROJECT

FCJ Youth Network is inviting newcomer youth interested in learn about storytelling and filmmaking. The project “The Past, The Present, Our Future” was launched with the Storytelling series of workshops that are taking place on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 pm.

Great turn out at the first storytelling workshop at FCJ Refugee Centre. The workshop was facilitated by Shay Shay, who guided the whole group through storytelling  techniques.

With the participation of more than 15 youths, the FCJ Youth Network started their  film project.

If you could not make the first week of February,  you can still join the group any Wednesday  and catch up on the project.

The film initiative aim is to highlight the experiences of newcomer youth in Toronto and is looking to have different voices of youth involved in the project.

FCJ Refugee Centre has an open door policy so any youth who wants to join the project is welcome to come. We are located at 208 Oakwood Ave. (one block north from St Clair West).

Contact person: Tee-Jay Ndjoze Siririka
t.ndjoze@fcjrefugeecentre.org

 

 

Finding Home outside of Toronto

We are very pleased to announce a new pilot program that FCJ has began in this new year along with the support of the city of Toronto. Our program “Finding Home in Inclusive Neighbourhood’s (FHIN)”, offers a new opportunity to refugee claimant families in order to address the housing issues and lack of space in shelters that newcomers face in Toronto. We aim to work with refugee houses and shelters inside the city of Toronto, so we are able to conduct regular orientation sessions that provide information on the refugee determination process, and on the option of the finding home outside of Toronto. The goal of the program is to support refugee claimant families and individuals who want to voluntarily re-settle outside of Toronto by connecting refugee claimants with service providers outside of the city, ensuring the access of services in the resettled location, and providing free transportation to support the move. If you are a refugee organization in or out of the city of Toronto, or a refugee claimant who is interested in this program, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Natalie Gardiner & Sebastián Garcia Arango
Finding Home in Inclusive Neighbourhoods Project Coordinators
fhin@fcjrefugeecentre.org

 

 

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