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Syrian ‘refugees’ in Canada say they feel trapped, demand more money, housing, health care, and personal attention

Critics say changes are needed to support 1,100 Syrian refugees arriving in B.C. in coming days

By Catherine Rolfsen


As B.C. prepares to welcome a “surge” of 1,100 Syrian government-assisted refugees, some of the families already in the province say support services are inadequate.

“It’s been two months since I’ve requested just to have the exam for the English [course placement],” says government-assisted Syrian refugee Shadi Alradi, speaking through an interpreter.

Alradi moved into an apartment in Coquitlam a month ago.

“The [Immigrant Services Society of B.C.] responded that they don’t even have 15 minutes to talk with me … This makes me feel frustrated and depressed since I don’t have any more time to waste.”

Alradi says he feels trapped in his home: He can’t afford the bus fare to visit the library with his toddler, can’t find help arranging for emergency dental treatment, and can’t figure out when and if he will be enrolled in English courses.

His neighbour, Abeer Louaihaq, says she and her family “feel like strangers” because they haven’t had an opportunity to learn English.

Syrian refugee Abeer Louaihaq says she’s not getting the help she needs to integrate into her new community. ‘We keep asking but no one is telling us anything useful.’ (CBC News)

“Not knowing the language has created obstacles in everyday life,” she says, also speaking through a interpreter.

“For example, I’m not able to communicate with my children’s teachers in school. They try to talk to me and I can’t understand what they’re saying.”

As CBC reported earlier this year, wait lists can be one to 16 months for federally funded language courses for newcomers to Canada.

In an email, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokeswoman Nancy Caron said the federal government is working closely with service providers in B.C., and that “adjustments will be made to some service provider agreements in response to changing client volume and needs.”

Louaihaq and Alradi say they understand that settlement workers are busy, and emphasize they’re grateful to the government of Canada and Canadians for welcoming them.

“The main reason that we’re in such a rush is because we don’t want to feel like the government is paying for all our bills,” Alradi says.

“We want to depend on ourselves. We want to have jobs. We want to blend in.”

1,100 more Syrians on their way to B.C.

Settlement agencies will become even more stretched in the coming days.

ISSofBC director Chris Friesen says they’re expecting an “arrival surge” of 1,100 government-assisted Syrian


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