British Columbia

Syrian migrant crisis prompts Vancouver aid groups to act

When Eyob Naizghi saw the photo of the lifeless body of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach, he felt compelled to act, urging his group, MOSAIC, to ramp up support for people trying to come to Canada.

'We have to all step up to the plate,' says refugee worker

Newly arrived migrants hug moments after arriving on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey to Greece on August 14, 2015. (Achilleas Zavallis/AFP/Getty Images)

When Eyob Naizghi saw the photo of the lifeless body of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach, he felt compelled to act, urging his group, MOSAIC, to ramp up support for people trying to come to Canada. 

Naizghi, heads an organization that helps immigrants and refugees settle in Canada. He called on his group to increase efforts and they responded.

By Friday, Naizghi said his organization was prepared to provide support for up to 1,000 extra refugees in Metro Vancouver.

"We have to all step up to the plate," Naizghi said Friday.

"We have the capacity to support arriving refugees.Yes, it's a big challenge. It's a challenge I'm prepared to take."

Naizghi was responding to the photo of young Alan Kurdi, who drowned along with his brother and mother as the family tried to make its way from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos. Their father, Abdullah, survived. Abdullah's sister, Tima, moved to Canada several years ago and said she had been trying to help Abdullah and another brother and their families come to Canada

Naizghi knows it's unlikely that 1,000 Syrian refugees would be permitted to enter Canada in the near future. Fewer than 2,400 have been admitted since 2013. But he said the gesture is meant to stir others to act.

MOSAIC provides support services for newcomers including, translation, temporary housing arrangement and connections to public services.

Canada urged to step up

He said Canada, in the past, has stepped up to open its doors to refugees from other conflicts, including the Vietnam war and the Balkans conflict.

"Now it's time that we repeat that. It's a call for action. I think Canadians want to do something. This is an opportune time to galvanize citizens."

Syrian-Canadian Riam El-Safadi was also moved to urge Canadians to act. For more than three years, El-Safadi has collected surplus and used medical equipment, including crutches, wheelchairs and surgical equipment, to send to Syria.

"We are preparing now to send the tenth medical aid container to Syria."

El-Safadi, who moved to Canada from Syria more than 20 years ago, said he feels duty-bound to help his war torn former country.

"We take it for granted the human rights and the services that we have here," El-Safadi said. "I found that my obligation is to help places in Syria right now where they don't have any access to international humanitarian aid and there's a desperate need to stop the bleeding."

The medical aid organization where El-Safadi volunteers is ICNA Relief Canada. The group's website provides information on how to make a donation.

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