British Columbians continue to open their homes to Syrian refugees despite recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Chris Friesen with Immigrant Services Society (ISS) of BC says since they launched a web tool on their website that allows British Columbians to offer housing to Syrian refugees on Nov. 10, they received more than 500 “housing leads” from people across B.C., some from as far as Kamloops, Prince George and Victoria.
Friesen says people are offering their basement suits, apartments and spare rooms for refugees who are in the process of coming to Canada.
“Considering some of the negative discourse that has come out as the result of the horrific situation in Paris, we are still getting a steady stream of offers and support,” says Friesen.
With so many housing offers coming in, Friesen says ISS has set up a system where, once housing is offered, they will pay a visit to the site to clarify terms and conditions of the offer and potentially perform a background or criminal check on the hosts.
In addition, Friesen says, in the last ten days alone, 2,000 volunteers have signed up to help with the refugee influx and close to 60 B.C. businesses and individuals have reached out to offer potential employment opportunities for refugees.
Canada’s new Liberal government has committed to bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of December. On Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark went on record saying B.C. has been asked to take in 3,500 refugees from Syria and Iraq, and she thinks the province will be able to take on the task.
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The premier allocated $1 million to support Syrian refugees coming to British Columbia in September, saying the money will be used to ensure the new residents are successful here.
Clark also stated that she would like to see more refugees settling outside the Lower Mainland, prompting some settlement groups to say that settling refugees outside of Metro Vancouver could set them up to fail.
Friesen says they agree with the premier in principle, but says there are capacity issues that have to be addressed in the immediate future, requiring additional resources – especially as far as the health care and education systems are concerned.
Friesen says British Columbians can help by getting involved with their local immigration agencies, considering a private refugee sponsorship or donating to the organizations supporting refugees, such as ISS.
But he says housing is their number one priority.
“We can handle transitional housing,” says Friesen. “But it is the longer term housing that’s the problem.”
To apply to offer housing to refugees, British Columbians can complete a form here.
For more information on other ways to help refugees settle in B.C., go here.