Syrian refugees settling at highest per capita rate in Coquitlam

Syrian refugees start arriving in early December, and their support systems are gearing up and projecting where the population will settle in B.C., predicting Surrey and Coquitlam will top the list.

Surrey expected to be top city for Syrian refugee settlement, followed by Coquitlam

Refugees walk along the railway tracks in Hungary after crossing the border from Serbia. (Santi Palacios/Associated Press)

Syrian refugee support systems are gearing up to welcome some of the 2,490 people projected to start arriving in B.C.'s Lower Mainland by early December.

Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby are expected to be the top choices for the majority of new arrivals, with 85 percent of government assisted refugees to B.C. tending to settle in the Lower Mainland.

While most are expected to put down roots in Surrey, Coquitlam, with a smaller population, will see a higher per capita increase to its Syrian community.

Support workers say the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, have not changed any plans to open B.C.'s doors to refugees.

"We can't stop now. There is too much at stake for those innocently caught up in this," said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society in B.C. (ISS) who was part of an emergency meeting today. 

 "We've got to speed it up," he said.

Friesen says despite the Paris attacks, thousands of British Columbians continue to reach out to help some of the 9.5 million displaced Syrians.

"Yes. The situation in Paris was horrific, everyone can agree on that one, but there are millions of innocent Syrians that are caught up in a civil war going on now for five years. There continues to be tens of thousands that are making the perilous journey to neighbouring countries and Europe," he said.

Emergency meeting: first of its kind in B.C.

Friesen was part of an all-day, closed-door, emergency meeting bringing together health, housing and community support authorities in a way, he says, has never been done before in B.C.

"We can't stop now. There is too much at stake," said Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for ISS B.C. (CBC)

"And we are going into the winter months now," he added."This is the first time in the history of the province we've held a meeting like this."

The process will see Syrians arriving and held first in temporary reception facilities, then into the communities where they will live.

Based on ISS projections about 2,490 government-supported Syrian refugees are expected in B.C. Most will settle in Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby.

The Fraser Health Region has seen 3,346 Syrians settle there since 2010, according to the ISS.

Projected settlement by numbers: 

  • Surrey 900
  • Coquitlam 600
  • Burnaby 540-600
  • Vancouver 300
  • New Westminster 120 
Alvand, 18, from Syria takes a selfie with his friends as they walk along a railway track after crossing into Hungary from Serbia last week. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)