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New York City disputes claims that migrant shelter food isn't halal during Ramadan

NYC disputes claims migrant shelters aren't serving halal food during Ramadan
NYC disputes claims migrant shelters aren't serving halal food during Ramadan 02:02

NEW YORK -- Some migrants say as Ramadan comes to a close, they're not getting the proper food at New York City shelters, but the city says it's all a big misunderstanding.

Amadou Barry came to New York from Guinea in West Africa three months ago. He's one of the 3,000 asylum seekers at the Randall's Island humanitarian center breaking fast in the shelter's cafeteria.

"Sometimes good food, sometimes no good food," Barry said.

Tuesday, he said the food was good. It was Eid al-Fitr, celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan.

More than half the migrants at the Randall's Island shelter are Muslim.

"We've made sure that all the food is halal to make sure that everybody feels welcome," said Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president of New York City Health + Hospitals.

But during Ramadan, some migrants disputed that.

At the Creedmoor Shelter in Queens, volunteers claimed the only halal meals served were vegetarian.

"It's a political answer ... You can say technically, yes, they are getting halal meals because half of the meals are vegetables, so all vegetables are halal," volunteer Kabir Javaid said.

Throughout the month, Javaid and his masjid cooked and served hundreds of their own meals for migrants right outside the shelter.

"People can't take it anymore. They're like, wow, we fasted the entire day and it's the same exact garbage," Javaid said.

The city spends about $14 a day on meals per person, which adds up to about $350,000 a day at all of its congregate shelters, like the one on Randall's Island.

So if migrants don't know the cafeteria meat is halal -- that's an expensive misunderstanding.

"What can the city be doing to make sure people know the options available for them?" CBS New York's Ali Bauman asked Long.

"We'll help you make sure that everybody knows. We worked incredibly hard at our humanitarian centers to make people feel welcome through the food that we're offering them," Long said.

During Ramadan, the city has also tried to make migrants feel welcome with weekly prayer services at the Randall's Island shelter.

"New York says whatever cultural and religious and social background that you come from, we'll protect it and we'll celebrate it," said Sheikh Musa Drammeh, chairman of the Muslim Advisory council to the state of New York.

City leaders say they plan to continue and expand prayer services to all its humanitarian centers, even when the holiday is over.

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