British Columbia

Syrian refugees to bolster economy in communities, says researcher

Researchers say an influx of refugees in B.C.’s northern communities would actually help boost the economy there, like it has in some struggling cities in the U.S.

Refugees can be a catalyst for better healthcare and schools for the whole community, says Shayna Plaut

Syrian refugees gather outside their embassy in Amman, Jordan, September 2015. Canada is working on a plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada from camps in Jordan and Lebanon. (Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Raad Adayleh)

Researchers say an influx of refugees in B.C.'s northern communities will actually help boost the economy there, like it has in some struggling American cities.

Some people in the province have voiced concerns about Syrian refugees resettling in northern B.C.

But Shayna Plaut, a research fellow at the school of international studies at SFU, says refugees have been proven to improve the economic situation of the communities where they re-settle.

"Particularly with the refugees that are coming from Syria, you're talking about predominantly middle class folks, professional folks," she said.  

"And they're coming to a new community and bringing with them those resources."

An economic boost

Plaut says refugees have completely revitalized some cities in America's rust belt by creating jobs.

"People are buying homes, renovating homes, they have children that are going to school, the education system is much more robust, they're opening up small businesses."

She acknowledges that the Syrian refugees will require social services to get back on their feet after fleeing a war-torn country, but that it can actually help the community as a whole.

"Yes you're going to need to have health care services, you're going to have to need schooling services, you're going to need to have housing. But don't you need that for the entire community?" she said.

"So if this is the catalyst to enable that to happen, isn't that a benefit for all?"

Seeing refugees as people

Plaut emphasized refugees are a particular type of migrant, strictly defined by international law.

"Refugees are people who have been legally sanctioned, recognized as people who are surviving and fleeing persecution on the basis of race, religion, national origin political opinion, or social group," she said.

At the same time, she wants communities to see refugees as "full human beings."

"One of the things that's every important is to recognize that a person is not just a refugee. All people are onions. All people are multiple layers," she said.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Researcher says Syrian refugees can boost economy in B.C.'s north.


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