New Brunswick

Layla Rahmeh helping refugees 4 years after fleeing Syria

A Syrian refugee, who fled her war-torn country more than three years ago, is now helping the latest round of refugees adjust to living in Canada.

Syrian refugee lives in Saint John and urges Canadians to remember refugees have escaped 'great terror'

Layla Rahmeh said she had a good life and a top job before she was forced to leave Syria four years ago because of the civil war. (Layla Rahmeh/LinkedIn)

A Syrian refugee, who fled her war-torn country more than three years ago, is now helping the latest round of refugees adjust to living in Canada.

Layla Rahmeh said on Information Morning Fredericton on Thursday that she had a good life and a top job before she was forced to leave her home country due to the civil war.

Rahmeh said she had to leave all of that behind when she came to Canada, with no money and no job.

And Rahmeh said people who haven't lived through civil war can't really understand what the refugees have experienced or how that shapes their reactions to daily events that others take for granted.

"They have suffered a lot, their reaction might be sometimes really awkward," she said.

"Up until now, and this is my fourth year here in Canada, every time there is fireworks for any celebration, on the new year or Canada Day, I jump out of my place when I hear the fireworks."

Layla Rahmeh left Syria for Canada more than three years ago, now she's helping other refugees settle here. 22:53

Rahmeh said the sounds of fireworks would remind her and her daughter of the bombing that they left behind them in Damascus.

"My daughter starts crying and she would have to look at them. I would keep telling her, they are fireworks, just keep looking at them, they are not guns," she said.

Rahmeh, who spoke about her transition to Canada at St. Thomas University on Thursday, is now helping newcomers adjust to life in Canada.

When Rahmeh came to Canada, she had two brothers already in the country and she could speak English. Many of the refugees arriving now, she said, may have trouble if they need to learn English.

Many supporters were at the Fredericton Airport to greet the first Syrian refugees to arrive in New Brunswick. Rahmeh said Canadians are now more accepting now of the refugees than in previous years. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
The new refugees will enjoy some advantages, however.

Rahmeh remembers the questions that she and her daughter faced when they first came to Saint John.

Now, she said, Canadians understand the conflict that they left behind them and are accepting Syrian refugees.

She said there may have been "the fear of the unexpected" with some people about the refugees but that is now dissipating among many Canadians.

"They are seeing on the TV when they are welcomed at the airport and they see they are normal people, they are humble and modest and really appreciating and expressing their joy and happiness to be safe in a beautiful place like Canada," she said.

"I think people are more able to understand where they are coming from and understand that these people are escaping great terror and they have been looking for a place where they can be safe and they can have a future for themselves and their children. They just want to be in a peaceful place."

Syrian refugees arriving

Cities across the country are now welcoming in Syrian refugees, as a part of the Liberal government's plan to bring in 25,000 government-assisted refugees.

The Liberals originally promised to resettle 25,000 government-assisted refugees by Dec. 31 but lowered the target to 10,000 in November, announcing they would be a mix of government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced more than 10,000 refugees have now arrived in Canada.

Earlier this week, the three refugee settlement agencies say there are 153 federally-sponsored Syrian refugees in New Brunswick.

  • Moncton: 61 federally-sponsored refugees,11 families
  • Fredericton: 53 federally-sponsored refugees, 10 families
  • Saint John: 77 federally-sponsored refugees, 16 families

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