The families are larger than expected, and the majority are children. That’s the challenge facing those responsible for resettling government-assisted refugees in Metro Vancouver.
While hundreds of government-assisted refugees spend weeks living in Metro Vancouver hotels, Chris Friesen with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. admits only 3 families have been moved into permanent housing since January 1st.
“60% of Syrians that have come in to date are under 18 years of age, so lots of children and youth and larger than expected families, so we are working hard now placing them in to the community.”
He hopes to have another 30 families moved out by next week.
In total, 2000 government-sponsored refugees will arrive here by March.
Meanwhile, a government-assisted Syrian refugee living in Vancouver says his family is running out of food money.
Adel Saidalzen has been living with his wife and three kids at the Sandman Hotel on Davie Street since late December.
Interpreter Nori Alhassani says Adel tells him the cash is running low.
“Last Thursday they gave him another $250, and they told him this will be enough for five days, in fact he says the $250 is gone within two days.”
Refugee families running out of money
He says non-profits and community organizations are stepping up.
“First of all he says he knows some families who have run out of money completely, but he said there are some community groups who took us for lunch and dinner, also they gave him some rice.”
Adel says he hopes the process is sped up so he can escape a life of limbo and finally resettle in a permanent home.
In reaction to this news, the NDP’s federal Immigration and Refugee critic questions why B.C. only has one agency delegated to finding permanent housing for refugees.
Call for increase to welfare rates
Vancouver-East MP Jenny Kwan says other provinces have multiple agencies providing resettlement services.
“I think we do need to look at that question to make sure that we can enhance our capacity, and to ensure that with the volume of people that are here that need this kind of support, that we have boots on the ground to get that work done.”
Kwan is calling for an increase in provincial welfare rates to get refugees and others out of poverty.