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Posted on: June 12, 2019

City Responds to Influx in Asylum Seekers


The City of Portland, in response to an influx in asylum seekers from the southern US border, has activated an emergency operations center and additional emergency shelter at the Portland Expo. Since Sunday, June 9, the City has received roughly 100 new asylum seekers, which caused the City to reach capacity at its Family Shelter and overflow spaces. The City is expecting several hundred additional asylum seekers to arrive over the next few days and weeks. The Expo will be used for shelter operations beginning the evening of Wednesday, June 12. 

The City’s Health & Human Services and Public Safety Committee discussed the emergency situation during its June 11 meeting, and gave City staff the authorization to set up the Expo as emergency shelter space.

The City is working on a coordinated effort with county and state emergency management officials, state officials, public health and Maine CDC officials, and food response partners, to manage the effort. At this time, the response plan includes setting up 350 cots at the Expo. The cots were provided by the Maine Emergency Management Agency. The City will ramp up the number of cots over the next few days as the situation necessitates. The response plan also includes security and public health measures to ensure the safety of people and operations at the Expo. The City wants to reassure the public that any rumors or reports of asylum seekers carrying the Ebola virus or being at risk are patently false.

Additionally, the City is hosting a meeting on Friday, June 14, at 3:00 PM at the Merrill Rehearsal Hall with Governor Mills and city, state, and federal officials, as well as community partners, to discuss a larger coordinated response effort. This meeting will allow the City the opportunity to explore additional ways in which community partners can support the response effort as it evolves over time. 

The City has also had an outpouring of support from the public, and many have expressed an interest in donating to help us provide shelter, housing, and basic necessities. For anyone wishing to donate, you can text the word EXPO to 91999 or visit to view other options. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, the City cannot accept physical donations at this time. It is imperative that people do not show up at the Expo with donations. We appreciate the public’s assistance with this matter. 

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