Kelowna refugees didn't plan on coming — now they don't plan on leaving

They were originally supposed to be settled in Edmonton and Victoria, but four families found themselves in Kelowna instead. They were concerned at first, but now they're calling Kelowna their new home.

Refugees were to be settled in Edmonton and Victoria, but now they're learning about their new home

The four families who came to Kelowna are not the first to arrive in the city: the Alaji family (pictured) arrived in December. (Bal Brach/CBC News)

The first government-sponsored refugee families to settle in B.C.'s southern Interior didn't think they would be the ones to claim that honour.

That's because the four families were expecting to be settled in Victoria and Edmonton — but due to some sort of snafu, they found themselves in Kelowna, where they've decided to stay.

Hamid Butt, with the Islamic Centre of Kelowna, says it's still unclear why the refugees came to Kelowna.

He says when they arrived in town, they were not sure they wanted to stay.

"They're in a different country, different place, different people. They don't know anybody. The anxiety and the stress from travel and those sorts of things add up. They were quite worried," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

Butt says once the families got a chance to check out the mosque and the wider community, they warmed to the idea of staying in Kelowna.

"I would say kind of the community at large was coming together to make them feel at home," Butt said. "Not only the Islamic community: the community at large came through. I have seen people coming up to them, talking to them, who can't even speak a word of Arabic, and these folks can't speak a word of English."

The refugees have been in town for about a week. They have been moved into accommodations and are right now just getting their places furnished.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to CBC's request for comment by deadline.

With files from Daybreak South


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: 'Accidental' Kelowna refugees warming up to Southern Interior as their new home

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