New York City inaugurated its largest migrant relief center on Sunday, August 20th, on Randall’s Island, to answer the increasing influx of migrants. The sprawling tent complex, which can house up to 3,000 new arrivals, is primarily designed to provide shelter for adult asylum-seeking migrants.
This new facility comes after over 100,000 migrants have passed through the city’s five boroughs since last year, with approximately 58,000 individuals still under the city’s care.
The facility, strategically located near a popular park, encompasses three sleeping tents furnished with end-to-end cots, a cafeteria tent furnished with spacious picnic tables, and a range of tents and trailers offering amenities like toilets, showers, and medical clinics. The center’s construction is ongoing, with one more sleeping tent in the works.
Transportation between the island and Manhattan or Queens is being facilitated by deploying MTA buses, while security personnel are stationed round-the-clock to ensure safety. This initiative follows the temporary opening of a smaller relief center on Randall’s Island last year.
Manuel Castro, the city’s commissioner of immigration affairs, highlighted the superior accommodations provided by the new tent facilities compared to many other shelters across the city’s five boroughs.
He emphasized the ample space available for migrants to congregate and spread out, emphasizing positive feedback from asylum seekers who stayed in the facility last October.
Castro said, “There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about facilities. But as you can see, these facilities are well-constructed. They have quite ample space for migrants, asylum seekers, to congregate and spread out, too.”
Discussing the stay of migrants at the facility, Theodore Long, Senior Vice President at NYC Health+Hospitals, stated that adult migrants will remain until their work authorization is approved.
In response to questions about the challenges African migrants face, particularly regarding language barriers and medical screening, Dr. Long mentioned that the facility already employs staff members who speak languages other than English. However, he emphasized that, if necessary, the facility will utilize the Language Line to address any communication issues.
Addressing concerns about African migrants receiving the BCG vaccine—which often results in a positive PPD test for tuberculosis in this demographic—Dr. Long clarified that they will use the QuantiFERON test, which doesn’t yield a false positive. (See video below)
On the topic of food, especially concerning Muslim migrants, he assured that all humanitarian centers are providing Halal food. (See video below)
Among the first arrivals welcomed at the center were young men who arrived on an MTA bus, carrying their belongings in shopping bags and suitcases.
This proactive approach comes after attention was drawn to crowds of migrants sleeping on the streets outside the city’s primary intake center at the Roosevelt Hotel.
City officials acknowledged that they had explored various alternatives for housing migrants within existing structures but had ultimately turned to constructing new sites in parks and parking lots due to insufficient capacity.
The cost of constructing and operating the new emergency shelter remains uncertain, but it will be funded with state resources. Officials have projected spending over $4 billion on housing and services for new migrants by the culmination of the upcoming year.
In light of the significant strain on resources, Castro advocated for increased federal government support to manage the surge of new arrivals. Castro said, “Perhaps if this was not New York City, the federal government would have responded already. But they have not, so we continue to call on the federal government to provide us with the appropriate support that we need.”
He continued, “They respond to emergency crises that impact a lot less people around the country and we just do not understand why 100,000 asylum seekers, and with this much impact on New York City, the federal government has not responded appropriately.”
Mayor Eric Adams has also repeatedly appealed to the White House, urging them to grant work authorization to the newcomers, enabling them to support themselves financially.
VIDEO: Dr. Long addresses concerns related African migrants – August 20, 2023.
PHOTOS: Randalls Island Migrant Shelter Facility – August 20, 2023