10 Syrian refugee families say they’ve been stuck in a Richmond hotel for more than a month and feel abandoned.
“I’ve been here for a month and one week now.”
Speaking from his small two-bedroom suite at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel in Richmond next to his wife and three young kids, Walaa Algohni says he’s frustrated.
Speaking through a translator he says he is unable to apply for English courses, get appropriate health care, or seek job opportunities, until his family is moved into permanent housing.
“We have lots of difficulties in terms of staying in the hotel for that long of a period. Transportation is a burden, a financial burden of course. We don’t have that support from ISS looking for housing. Many times when they ask us to go see a house, they send us alone.”
He also says it’s hard to get by on the allotted 175 dollars in spending money every five days, given the cost of transit.
The director of settlement services for the agency responsible for housing Syrians says he is sympathetic towards the plight some refugees are facing.
Chris Friesen with the Immigrant Services Society of BC says they’re dealing with a surge of larger than expected families.
“Given the number of families who we are dealing with now and the staff who we have in place, it is impossible to have one staff person escorting one family. We are getting really creative now. We are actually starting some bus tours this coming weekend taking groups of families to say, for example, Abbotsford.”
Friesen says almost half of the government-assisted refugees who arrived in Vancouver since November have been moved to permanent housing.
But, he says they’re expecting an influx of another 1,000 Syrians over the next two weeks as the federal government makes a final push to meet its 25,000 target by the end of the month.
More than 21,000 of the 25,000 Syrian refugees Canada has pledged to accept have now arrived.