Community Groups Call for Urgent Action to Address Refugee Housing Crisis

Media release

FCJ Refugee Centre
COSTI Community Services
Skills For Change

Toronto / June 28, 2023

Community groups in Toronto are calling on the governments of Canada and Ontario, and Toronto’s Mayor-elect to act urgently to provide emergency and long-term shelter for refugee claimants in Toronto.

A significant number of refugee claimants continue to arrive in Toronto and other Ontario communities. The number of refugee claimants arriving in Toronto in particular continues to be high, even after the expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement to irregular crossings of the Canada-US border and the closure of Roxham Road.

Mr. M.H., a refugee claimant from Ethiopia has been sleeping on the streets for the last three weeks. He has not been able to find a bed in a Toronto emergency shelter. Every day he comes to a local refugee house hoping for better news, and a shelter bed.

“Every morning we find refugee claimants lined up outside our door, hoping that this is the day they can get a shelter bed. This is a crisis. We cannot abandon our responsibilities to refugee claimants – especially children. We are counting on our new Mayor Olivia Chow, and the federal and provincial governments to work with us to find an immediate solution to the urgent shelter and housing crisis refugee claimants are facing” – Loly Rico, Executive Director of FCJ Refugee Centre and Provincial Director, OCASI.

“Globally, the number of people forcibly displaced is at an all-time high. We have done well in welcoming displaced Ukrainians. Let’s do better to welcome refugee claimants fleeing other conflicts and persecution. We call on all orders of government to step up to provide emergency shelter and supports for refugee claimants” – Yasmine Dossal, Director, Social Services at COSTI and Toronto Regional Director, OCASI.

“As we face the Ethiopian refugee crisis in Toronto, it is crucial that we acknowledge its criticality and the urgent need for action. Refugees have left their homes, seeking safety and a better future. We have a moral responsibility to provide comprehensive support, including education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, enabling them to rebuild their lives and contribute to society. By investing in their well-being and empowering them, we not only offer a chance for a brighter future but also enrich our communities with their diverse perspectives and talents. Let us stand in solidarity, extending our compassion and support to Ethiopian refugees in Toronto as they embark on their journey of healing, resilience, and hope.” – Surranna Sandy, CEO, Skills for Change

Community groups have sent an open letter to the City of Toronto, and to the governments of Canada and Ontario, calling for urgent action. The groups are calling on the newly-elected Toronto Mayor to:

  • Receive refugee claimants arriving in Toronto;
  • Provide emergency shelter in Toronto with support to transition to long-term housing; and
  • Provide support services

They are calling on the federal and provincial governments to:

  • Ensure refugee claimants at Toronto Pearson Airport and other international airports are received appropriately;
  • Resource municipalities to provide emergency shelter in Toronto with support to transition to long-term housing;
  • Resource community-based organizations to provide shelter and housing, and support services.


Loly Rico – 416-399-5105 or
Yasmine Dossal – 416-402-0561 or
Sampada Kukade – 647-293-4445 or
Carolina Teves – 647-606-0440 or