Close to 2,500 Syrians expected in B.C. by end of February

 

Families are bigger, with more children than anticipated

 
 
 
 
Chris Friesen, settlement services director at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., says the Syrian families that have arrived so far have had as many as 13 members.
 

Chris Friesen, settlement services director at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., says the Syrian families that have arrived so far have had as many as 13 members.

Photograph by: ian lindsay, Vancouver Sun

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Of the more than 400 Syrian refugees that have arrived so far in B.C., there have been more children than expected, meaning families are larger and harder to house.

Nearly 2,000 more Syrians are set to arrive before the end of February.

As of Wednesday, the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. had 411 government-assisted refugees housed in hotels and apartments in Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver, said Chris Friesen, settlement services director.

Close to 100 more are expected by the end of the week, by which time officials hope to move some of the refugees who arrived last month into more permanent accommodation.

Housing continues to be the biggest challenge, Friesen said, as the families that have arrived so far are larger than expected. Some have as many as 13 members and finding suitable accommodation for that many people on the equivalent of welfare is difficult, he said.

The agency received close to 1,000 offers of housing from Metro Vancouver residents, Friesen said.

“Because many of our housing leads are for single units or couples, we haven’t been able to take advantage of those quite yet.”

Another surprise has been the large number of children in this initial group, with 60 per cent of the Syrian refugees who have arrived so far under the age of 18.

“It’s great, it’s lots more kids. We need them, but it’s way more than we thought,” Friesen said.

The refugees are receiving a warm reception, with volunteers from groups such as the B.C. Muslim Association and the Muslim Food Bank visiting different hotels and providing the first meals in Canada, he added.

The 1,959 people — 407 families — expected in B.C. are all government-assisted refugees and are in addition to the more than 400 individuals already here, said Chris Friesen, settlement services director for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. All government-assisted refugees are destined for Metro Vancouver.

These figures do not include privately sponsored refugees. The federal immigration ministry’s website suggests fewer than 50 have arrived in B.C. since Nov. 4., many of whom were sponsored by groups based in Burnaby. Nearly 200 more are on the way, the figures show.

tacarman@postmedia.com

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Chris Friesen, settlement services director at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., says the Syrian families that have arrived so far have had as many as 13 members.
 

Chris Friesen, settlement services director at the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., says the Syrian families that have arrived so far have had as many as 13 members.

Photograph by: ian lindsay, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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