Syrian refugees to P.E.I. settling in well, says newcomers group

Syrian refugees families arriving on the Island are settling in well, say officials with the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada.

But eight of the 128 who have landed on P.E.I. so far have moved away

Refugees from Syria are 'settling well' on P.E.I., says the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers. (CBC)

Syrian refugees families arriving on the Island are settling in well, say officials with the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada.

Since early November, 84 government-assisted refugees have arrived on the Island, 36 privately-sponsored ones and eight under the blended program for a total of 128.

"The first group that came in from the end of December to kind of mid-January are now all into their permanent accommodation and settling well," said Craig Mackie, the association's executive director.

"The kids are getting into school, the parents are starting their English classes at the English schools, and I would say the resettlement process is going very well at this point." 

Some have already moved on

A news report this week about a Syrian refugee family of six worried about whether they had bedbugs in their Halifax apartment revealed that they had stayed briefly in Charlottetown, but opted to move to Halifax.

Mackie said he can't speak about individual cases because of client confidentiality, but does note Syrian refugees are free to move as they please and "the vast majority are choosing to stay on P.E.I."

The provincial government was also aware of the case, and noted another two individuals have also moved on from P.E.I. to B.C. 

"We anticipate that of the thousands of Syrian refugees that have come to Canada in recent months, some will opt to move from the communities where they originally landed to other places in the country, as is their right," provincial officials said in an email to CBC News Thursday. 

The provincial government is keen on growing P.E.I.'s population and would like to keep as many newcomers as possible. The province's role in refugee resettlement is to co-ordinate services, reduce barriers and provide a welcoming environment to newcomers.

Mackie said the winter weather has proven a "culture shock" that requires adjustment for some, although the children are loving the snow.

"They all speak so well of the kindness of Islanders and the warm welcome that they are receiving."

Refugee families continue to arrive on the Island.

A donation centre that has been set up to gather household goods for the refugees is still in need of a considerable number of items, especially furniture like sofas and kitchen tables. It's open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the former coast guard warehouse across from the P.E.I. Convention Centre. 

With files from Angela Walker


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