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Here’s how New Yorkers are trying to help asylum seekers across the city

NEW YORK — The migrant crisis is a hot topic in New York City, but across the five boroughs there are people doing what they can to help asylum seekers.

Viburt Bernard, affectionately known as “Cookie,” runs Sybil’s Bakery and Restaurant in Queens. The family-owned business has been a staple of Richmond Hill for almost 50 years.

“We have Caribbean, West Indian and Guyanese food,” he said.

His family consists of immigrants from Guyana.

“My mother came here with nine kids, a single parent, and I was only 14 when she came. I immediately got a job in Manhattan sweeping offices,” Bernard said.

That’s why he takes pride in helping others.

“We cook in large quantities. So then you have one problem in the evening; sometimes we overcook and you have leftover food in the evening,” he said.

He gave the leftover food to the dozens of migrant men who lived in the basement of Sarr’s furniture store on Liberty Avenue in February. The businesses are located on the same city block.

“Some nights he buys them food, and some nights if I really have too much, I like to give it to them,” Bernard said.

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Dave Sultan Khan owns the barbershop across the street, but also helps stock the neighborhood refrigerator and makeshift library outside his business.

“You want to do something because you came as an immigrant,” he said.

He is also an immigrant from Guyana who assisted asylum seekers from West Africa with haircuts, jackets and hot tea.

“It was very sad and breathtaking because people will do anything to have a better life,” Khan said. ‘They sleep in that basement. It is dangerous to health and a fire hazard for the building or the city, but where we come from it is not a danger. That is, we hug each other in a place where it is warm to sleep. .”

The migrants have now been deported, but the man who gave them shelter says he continues to find places for them so they don’t have to live on the streets.

The compassion for the city’s newest New Yorkers extends beyond Queens.

Imam Musa Kabba says dozens of migrant men which were found in the nearby basement of a Bronx business go to his mosque daily to pray and take shelter during the day.

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“When they come here, they start talking to us: ‘We don’t have room, can you hold our luggage, our stuff?’ We feel sorry for them,” Kabba said.

Many are Muslim.

The city has worked with faith leaders across the five boroughs to help house migrants overnight.

“It’s probably one of the most vulnerable times of the day, especially during winter. Instead of having migrants on the streets or just wandering around the neighborhood, it becomes a waiting center so they can find a safe, warm place,” said Bishop Dr. RC Hugh Nelson, with Church of God of East Flatbush.

Nelson is one of about a dozen faith leaders the city has worked with so far to help house adult asylum seekers from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Hundreds of asylum seekers sleep overnight at the Church of God in East Flatbush. It has multiple exits and bathrooms and soon showers.

“What’s really heartbreaking is to see these fellow human beings show up in the middle of winter with everything they own in a container under their arm,” Nelson said.

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Says the city More than 185,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since last springAnd the rules for a reception limit of 30 and 60 days workbut city and state leaders say it contributes to the existing housing crisis and pushing more people onto the streets and onto the subway system forcing many to live in unsafe and illegally converted spaces.

So far this year there have been more than 3,300 complaints about illegal conversions and more than 4,000 inspections.

“It just means people don’t have a place to stay, and that means they’re in our communities, our neighborhoods, on the streets and even more desperate,” said Congressman Harvey Epstein.

Back in Queens, neighbors who have helped their neighbors say it’s a moral responsibility for them and a standard of humanity.

‘What else should I do? People need help. They come in and they need help,” Bernard said.

The city says New Yorkers can help migrants as long as it’s done legally and safely. They vetted several organizations that New Yorkers can connect with.

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