Communities across BC prepare to take in Syrian refugees

It’s a mad scramble to settle one of the largest groups of refugees in Canadian history.

“We are tasked with resettling 25,000 [nationwide] in a number of weeks and every day counts now,” said Chris Friesen of the Immigrant Services Society of BC. “It may mean going to extraordinary circumstances that we’ve not seen before.”

The new Liberal government is delivering on its promise of bringing in Syrian refugees via Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan by the end of the year, giving them six weeks to pull it off.

About 2,700 Syrian refugees are expected to come to B.C., most to Metro Vancouver.

WATCH: B.C. set to take in Syrian refugees

The means 1,500 housing units will be needed in a market that’s already strapped.

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“A room in a house, a basement suite that’s being unoccupied at the moment, a property that’s not being used, perhaps a summer cottage that’s not being used. We really have to think outside of the box in order to make this happen,” Friesen said.

Out of the box could be used to describe the backup plan, which includes keeping refugees on boats off the coast to cities declaring emergency shelter protocols that could lead to cots on gymnasium floors, schools, churches and cultural centres.

READ MORE: Syrian refugees–how you can help

Once in Canada, refugees will receive about $610 a month in federal financial support, the same amount as collecting welfare in B.C.

It’s estimated 40 per cent of the newcomers will be under the age of 18, leading to a surge in demand for local school boards.

“We’ve dealt with an influx of 60, 80 refugee students in one year…we estimate about 500 or more coming into our schools,” said Doug Strachan of the Surrey School District. “We’re hopeful for some additional resources to help us out.

Extended interview: Challenges of bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees by end of 2015

“Our board is a strong believer in helping these families…so we’ll make it happen whatever way we can.”

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Premier Christy Clark has promised $1 million for the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

There will also be a call to action in Metro Vancouver Tuesday. People wanting to house refugees will have the opportunity to sign up.

-With files from John Hua

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