Syrian refugees get help integrating at Montreal info-session

A new workshop series aims to help Syrian refugees in Montreal navigate their next challenge — integration.

Workshops to help refugees navigate education, banking, housing and medical system

Eftisam Suleiman arrived in Montreal on Valentine's Day after fleeing the Syrian civil war with her three daughters. (CBC)

The plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada has been completed, but the process of settling in has just begun for the country's newest arrivals.

One organization hopes to make this next challenge easier for Syrian refugees in Montreal with the launch of a workshop series aimed at helping newcomers adapt to their new surroundings.

"It's crucial," said Faisal Alazem, a spokesman for the Canadian Alliance for Syrian Aid, the group that organized Sunday's information session.
Faisal Alazem with the Canadian Alliance for Syrian Aid said the info-session was 'crucial' for newly arrived Syrian refugees. (CBC)

"By our interactions, we can see that there is a lot of emptiness in their lives. And we're trying to fill that, as well as facilitate the process."

Faisal said the goal was to provide newly arrived refugees with useful information to ease the integration process.

That included workshops on education, Canadian banking, housing, access to French classes and tips on how to navigate the medical system.

"The 8-1-1 number took me as an immigrant 10 years to realize that there was this service," Alazem said, referring to the telephone medical consultation service Info-Santé.

'They have been through a lot'
Suleiman and her daughters arrived in Montreal without her husband — she said he was imprisoned by the Syrian regime and doesn't know if he's alive. (CBC)

Eftisam Suleiman and her three daughters were some of the new arrivals who attended the information session.

Suleiman's road to Montreal started when she fled a neighbourhood pounded into rubble during the civil war in Syria.

She said her husband was imprisoned by the Syrian regime and she fled with her family to a Turkish refugee camp.

Suleiman landed in Canada on Valentine's Day, but said the pain of missing her husband was unbearable — she doesn't know whether he's dead or alive.

"We already know that they have been through a lot," said volunteer Fatma Bouhlal.

"We want to make sure that their integration is as easy and smooth as it could be."

Bouhlal was one of many volunteers with no Syrian roots who felt compelled to lend a helping hand.

"These people really need our help," she said.

"They are here because they are trying to get access to a better life, a safe life for them and their children."


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