British Columbia

Thousands of Syrian refugees expected in B.C. by end of the year

Roughly 2,700 Syrian refugees are expected to land in B.C. over the next seven weeks, as part of the federal Liberal government's promise to settle 25,000 refugees in Canada.

Immigration Services of B.C. is already scrambling to find accommodation for them

A migrant's girl waits to board a bus after arriving by train at Schoenefeld railway station, south of Berlin, Germany, September 13, 2015. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Roughly 2,700 Syrian refugees are expected to land in B.C. over the next seven weeks, as part of the federal Liberal government's promise to settle 25,000 refugees in Canada.

Newly-appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum said on Saturday his department is working "around the clock" to get the refugees to Canada by the end of the year.

It's expected that British Columbia is going to be welcoming about 10 per cent of them and some of them will start arriving in B.C. as early as the next few weeks, according to Chris Friesen, settlement services director with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

"We're busy looking for hotels, motels throughout Vancouver area that could accommodate refugees in the short haul," said Friesen.

During the initial stages he expects it to look a lot like the images coming out of Germany, with temporary housing set up at military basis and school gymnasiums.

"This is by far the largest movement to British Columbia of refuges since the South East Asian crisis in 1980," he said. 

Affordable housing sought

Friesen says once the refugees arrive, one of the biggest challenges will be finding affordable long-term housing. 

"Finding accommodation on shelter allowance is next to impossible for B.C. residents. Let alone an influx of up to 3,000 Syrian refugees," he said, referring to the federal income support monies that Syrian refugees are supposed to get.

The society is asking the public to help them with housing leads — whether it's rooms in homes or space in churches.

Another issue will be finding accommodation that is close to health care and schools. 

As Friesen estimates 40 per cent of the refugees will be under the age of 19, which will mean school boards also have work to accommodate the children who will be entering in the middle of the school year. 


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled 2,700 Syrian refugees expected to land in B.C. by end of the year with the CBC's Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition.

With files from Farrah Merali

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