Brandon settlement group ready to welcome Syrian refugees
Westman Immigrant Services still unsure how many refugees are headed for the Wheat City
A group that helps refugees and immigrants settle into Westman says they are ready to welcome as many Syrian refugees as want to move into the region, but it's still not clear how many will be coming.
Richard Bruce, executive director of Westman Immigrant Services, said the only refugees coming to Brandon as of now are privately sponsored. He estimates groups will settle up to five families in the city of Brandon and three or four more in the Westman region.
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"When they come here, they are permanent residents, they are entitled to all of the services that we would supply," Bruce said, adding that would include help with language and filling out government forms.
WIS also offers help finding jobs, integrating into the community and teaching kids how to play different sports and other activities.
The organization could become a lot busier if Maple Leaf Foods follows though with a promise to hire up to 25 refugees to work in its pork plant in Brandon.
If each new worker brought four family members, that would mean more than 125 refugees moving into the Wheat City. However, Bruce said they haven't yet been contacted by Maple Leaf about how Westman Immigrant Services might be able to help the new workers if and when they arrive.
"I'm aware that they are prepared to take a number of people from the refugee population that comes into town but they haven't come here yet," Bruce said.
Bruce believes at least the first wave of refugees will settle in Winnipeg to begin with, where there are more supports and possibly better job prospects, but are ready in case some of those new Canadians want to settle in Brandon.
"We're prepared to help as many as come here," he added. "But not 600 or 700 at one time. That would actually strain the system considerably."
The City of Brandon said 535 immigrants settled into Brandon in 2014, according to statistics released on Friday. More than 6,500 have called Brandon home in the past decade.