Months after arriving in B.C., many Syrian refugees still stuck in hotels

Click to play video: 'Concerns renewed about B.C.’s ability to handle influx of Syrian refugees'
Concerns renewed about B.C.’s ability to handle influx of Syrian refugees
WATCH: The settlement of Syrian refugees in Metro Vancouver continues to face challenges. As John Hua reports, only a third of the hundreds who have arrived since December have found long-term accommodation – Feb 11, 2016

On February 3, David Manicom, the Director General of Canada’s Immigration Policy Branch, made clear to reporters that Syrian Refugees were being housed quickly.

“We have not yet had situation where refugees are staying in hotels more than a couple of weeks,” he said.

That’s news to Alaia Hurqos and her daughters, two of whom are blind. They’ve been saying at the Sandman Hotel in downtown Vancouver for more than a month – and they say they’ve only been out of their hotel once.

“They are stuck in the hotel, they don’t know the neighbourhood, people are not connecting with them, and that’s a real challenge,” says NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

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Ten families from Syria have checked into the Sandman since November, and they say without knowing where they will end up, it’s nearly impossible to access language programs or enroll their children in school.

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READ MORE: 5 challenges faced by Syrian refugees arriving in Canada

“If the kids make any noise, they get a call from a management saying keep it down,” said Nazhir Allhalaq, whose family of eight is staying in a two-bedroom room.

For all of British Columbia, 1,053 government-assisted Syrian refugees have arrived since November 4, and just 315 are in permanent housing.

Similar situations have been reported in cities across Canada, but Immigration Minister John McCallum expressed confidence in his government’s resettlement program today.

“I am told by the refugee settlement experts that when refugees come here there is typically a period of time where they live in hotels before they are transferred to their permanent accommodation. We are doing everything possible to minimize that amount of time,” he said.

Kwan says the government should allow additional groups to help manage resettlement.

“There’s a huge disconnect between the Minister – and what he understands the situation to be – and reality,” she said.

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