A fire at a hotel which houses refugees is being investigated as arson, police have said.
"It was like a nightmare," one asylum-seeker told broadcaster CBC. “We were holding the children, even other people's children, because they were in hurry and they were crying."
Costi, the agency that houses many refugees in Toronto, said it was shocked by the incident. "This could have exploded and created, a horrific, horrific fire," said executive director Mario Calla. "We are talking about a serious attempt at burning this place down."
The hotel – which houses 577 refugees – has previously been targeted by anti-Muslim and anti-immigration groups.
In the days before the blaze, three far-right YouTube personalities entered the reception, filmed guests without consent and demanded refugees tell them where they were from. A Canadian columnist also published a lurid story that goats were being slaughtered in bathrooms – which was later dismissed by the hotel itself.
"Radisson Hotel Toronto East can confirm that the claims of goats being slaughtered in the public bathrooms are completely false," spokeswoman Laura Langemo said.
If fears of an attack prove to be founded, it will not be the first time refugees have been targeted by arsonists.
Germany has seen several attempts to burn buildings housing asylum seekers including two separate incidents in the same night in Bavaria, in 2015. Fifteen people – including seven teenagers – were left injured. In St Helens in Merseyside, in 2017, meanwhile, a Syrian family of five had to flee their home in the middle of the night after it was set ablaze.
No arrests have yet been made in the Toronto case.
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