Over the past two years, the city of Lethbridge has welcomed more than 400 government-assisted Syrian refugees and many have settled in southern Alberta.
“This population is very motivated in its settlement,” said Sarah Amies, director of immigrant services at Lethbridge Family Services.
“Their lives were completely disrupted and uprooted for five or six years and now they’re very invested in normalcy and living a life where they can work, earn a living and contribute back to the community.”
Although the federal government provides assistance for things like housing, clothing and food to refugees during their first year in Canada, Amies says many of the families in Lethbridge are now into the “second stage” of their asylum.
That means they are now working or looking to enter the workforce, as well as pursuing education.
“Many [members of the] Syrian population have elected to go into the workforce,” Amies said. “They’re working in service jobs, there are a number of manufacturing jobs in town that they’ve found employment with and a number of them have actually started their own businesses. They’re also doing this to be able to provide education to their children in the coming years.”
But those who work closely with the newcomers say the transition isn’t always easy, as families can often face social, language and economic barriers.
Amies said the city’s willingness to work with refugees remains key to successful integration.
“By inviting people in and making it as easy as possible for them to integrate, all the while maintaining Canadian standards and not deviating from that, it’s a beautiful win-win.”
Amies also credited Lethbridge as an inclusive city that provides pivotal factors needed to create a welcoming community. Those include affordable and safe housing, as well as a strong workforce and social opportunities.
Amies says these attributes help paint Lethbridge in a positive light that’s encouraging newcomers to consider making the city their permanent home.
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