Refugees from Ebola-stricken Congo dumped off in San Antonio by the hundreds

San Antonio found itself ill-prepared to handle a sudden influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Texas city was reportedly not informed by U.S. Border Patrol that the migrants, who began arriving on Tuesday, were coming, according to Interim Assistant City Manager Dr. Colleen Bridger.

(VIdeo: KENS 5)

“We didn’t get a heads up,” Bridger told KENS 5 on Thursday.

“When we called Border Patrol to confirm, they said, ‘yeah, another 200 to 300 from the Congo and Angola will be coming to San Antonio,'” she added.

The refugees, fleeing the Congo where an Ebola epidemic that began last year has now surpassed 2,000 cases, arrived in the Alamo city after reportedly traveling to the southern U.S. border with a group of about 350 migrants through Ecuador.

Besides the burden of processing and sheltering the migrants, the city has found an added challenge of communication, as KENS 5 reported that San Antonio is now “in desperate need of French-speaking volunteers.”

The outlet’s reporter, Jaleesa Irizarry, used Google Translate to communicate with Masengi, a Congolese asylum-seeker.

About 375 people, from a total of 450 just on Wednesday at the Migrant Resource Center, were housed at Travis Park Church that night. Another center was opened to shelter hundreds more expected to arrive, but plans to send the migrants to other cities have not yet panned out.

“The plan was 350 of them would travel from San Antonio to Portland. When we reached out to Portland Maine they said, ‘Please don’t send us any more. We’re already stretched way beyond our capacity,” Bridger said. “So we’re working with them [the migrants] now to identify other cities throughout the United States where they can go and begin their asylum seeking process.”

The Catholic Charities of San Antonio has reportedly been offering assistance but is now financially to meet the needs. The organization has spent thousands of dollars a week on bus tickets for the Spanish and French-speaking migrants to get to their final destinations.

“We’re looking at roughly $14,000 a week on bus tickets alone,” the group’s spokesperson, Christina Higgs, told KENS 5. “We’ve been asked several times if we’re worried if the money will run out and we are. It’s obviously a finite resource.”

U.S. Border Patrol reported that a large groups of migrants from Angola, Cameroon and Congo were apprehended last week after wading across the Rio Grande into the U.S.

“Agents have encountered 182 large groups (100+ individuals) across the SW border this fiscal year. This is the first large group apprehended in Del Rio Sector this FY and the first large group apprehended on the SW border this FY consisting entirely of African nationals,” CBP said in a statement.

Many expressed frustration and anger over the crisis and potential health emergency unfolding in the Texas city.


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