News / Vancouver

Syrian refugee report shows challenges and successes after one year in B.C.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees in B.C. settled in Surrey

Haveen Kurdi, left, 16, hugs her aunt Tima Kurdi, who lives in the Vancouver area, after her family, who escaped the war in Syria, arrived at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday December 28, 2015.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Haveen Kurdi, left, 16, hugs her aunt Tima Kurdi, who lives in the Vancouver area, after her family, who escaped the war in Syria, arrived at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday December 28, 2015.

For stats on which cities Syrian refugees have settled in, scroll to bottom of story.

One year after Syrian refugees began arriving in Canada, a new Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSofBC) report shows the success and challenges of their lives so far.

Three quarters of Syrian refugees in B.C. are currently taking federally-funded English language classes, but only 17 per cent are employed in either full-time or part-time work, according to the report.

Meanwhile, more than half of respondents (66 per cent) reported using food banks to support their families.

One of the biggest challenges, especially in urban areas like the Lower Mainland, was finding affordable housing for Syrian families, who sometimes had as many as 12 members, said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services at ISSofBC.

“The search for permanent housing meant that many families spent two, three or more months in temporary reception and housing facilities.”

The current wait time for permanent housing is now a more reasonable 23 days, he said.

But many refugees still struggle to find resources beyond the basic necessities of food and shelter.

About 16 per cent of Syrian refugees reported feeling depressed, according to the ISSofBC report.

“It has really highlighted the gap in the fact that we don’t have a national settlement informed trauma program that would provide short term access [like] six to 10 visits with bilingual, bicultural counsellors,” said Friesen.

But B.C. will see a return to pre-2016 refugee numbers next year, he said.

“The combined [federal] target for all refugees from all countries is 7,500. Compared to similar targets prior to 2016, B.C. on average received around 800 government-assisted refugees.”

Where are the Syrian refugees?

Source: ISSofBC

  • Surrey: 899
  • Coquitlam: 185
  • Abbotsford: 154
  • Burnaby: 145
  • Vancouver: 132
  • Langley: 85
  • Delta: 84
  • New Westminster: 33
  • Chilliwack: 27
  • Maple Ridge: 19
  • Mission: 10
  • Richmond: 8
  • Port Coquitlam: 7

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