British Columbia

Vancouver announces $181K for refugee groups

$181,000 in new funding will be used by groups like the Immigrant Services Society to provide pre-settlement and housing support.

ISS calls money a 'tremendous start' but says settlement groups still face funding challenges

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (right) speaks at the Immigrant Services Society's welcome centre Wednesday, while ISS director of settlement services Chris Friesen looks on. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The City of Vancouver gave refugee settlement agencies a funding boost on Wednesday.

The $181,000 in new funding has been announced for groups like the Immigrant Services Society to provide pre-settlement and housing support.

"We've been embracing the opportunity the federal government created in bringing more refugees here," Robertson said. "That comes with a lot of challenge, a lot of hard work and a lot more energy that has to go into overall effort."

At a Wednesday media event, a refugee whose country of origin and name are being withheld to protect his identity, spoke about how the services he has received have impacted his life.

"I sometimes [get] emotional and tears come [when] I think of my situation and others' situations, he said.

"Imagine a person fleeing alone, without his or her beloved wife or husband and children, friends and relatives. That person is not just an imaginary human being, but me, myself, standing right here in front of you."

Chris Friesen with the Immigrant Services Society says the funding comes at a time when asylum seekers are up about 60 percent from the same time last year. That increase, he says, has support groups struggling.

"A refugee claimant, when they first arrive in B.C., will not have access to income support for up to two months … it's a hard period of time," he told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"[Asylum seekers] are not able to access the range of services offered by the federal government such as language classes and various settlement and employment supports, because without legal status … they [are] significantly at risk as a newcomer population."

He says the money announced today is a "tremendous start" but settlement groups still face funding challenges.

With files from Megan Batchelor