New Brunswick must integrate Syrians or risk departures, group says

New Brunswick has managed to keep roughly 95 per cent of the Syrian refugees that settled in the province earlier this year but more work needs to be done on making sure the remainder stay in their new communities, according to two officials.

New Brunswick Multicultural Association says about 5% of the 261 settled families have chosen to relocate

About 14 Syrian refugee families were screened to receive financial aid under the provincial social assistance program come January. (CBC)

New Brunswick has managed to keep roughly 95 per cent of the Syrian refugees that settled in the province earlier this year but more work needs to be done on making sure the remainder stay in their new communities, according to two officials.

Both Mike Timani, the president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Association, and Alex LeBlanc, the group's executive director, say it is common that some refugees will decide to leave a province after they have settled.

They were responding to concerns that Syrian refugee families were leaving New Brunswick to settle in larger centres across Canada.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Association says roughly five per cent of Syrian refugee families have left the province.

"It's no doubt, we're always going to lose some but when you look at this what we have lost without looking actually looking at what we have gained, we only lost 4.2 per cent of the total," said Timani.

Both Timani and LeBlanc said the focus now has to stay on the 95 per cent of Syrian refugee families that have chosen to stay in the province.

Alex LeBlanc, the executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, said some refugees will leave once they've settled so they can reunite with family in other cities. (CBC)
"Five per cent leaving means that we've got 95 per cent of the families that are here and that's where our attention is now," said LeBlanc.

To date, LeBlanc said 103 Syrian refugees have found full-time or part-time work and 38 others will be employed in the next few weeks.

Timani said the challenge for many of the Syrian refugee families is the learning a new language.

He added the settlement agencies are working hard to ensure the necessary needs are met.

"I think as a community we should continue to help and assist and make sure that we integrate them properly and that's what's going to make a difference," he said.

Refugees leave for different reasons

MIke Timani, the president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, said 95 per cent of Syrian refugees have decided to stay in the province. (CBC)
LeBlanc said it is common for some refugees to pick up and leave even after they have settled.

"Once the dust settles and they get situated and their immediate needs met, they might discover they have friends in a large urban centre, or maybe not one of the Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto centres, it could even be another community and so there is going to be some movement," said LeBlanc.

There are many reasons the families chose to leave but LeBlanc said more often than they move to be closer to family and friends.

"So when we look at that in the context of how many families have come, it's between four and six per cent of the total number of families that have come that have decided to relocate, to explore options in other communities in Canada."

But LeBlanc added there had been 21 reunifications of families that have come to the province either from other communities or abroad.

"That's another dimension to this, that families are choosing to come to New Brunswick and reunite with families that are here," he said.

Timani said the numbers show Syrian refugees are opting to stay in the province.

"We had 261 families settle between the larger cities and 11 of them have left, five of them in Saint John but here's the fact, Saint John has gain 10 more, Fredericton has gained nine more and Moncton, two. So that's a total of 21 against 11," said Timani.

For more on this story:

Some Syrian families are adjusting to life in New Brunswick, others are leaving. 13:55
Mike Timani, president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council talks about why some Syrian refugee families are choosing to leave New Brunswick, and why others are choosing to stay. 9:59
YMCA Saint John executive director Shilo Boucher says, while retention is always an issue when resettling immigrants, four families have moved to Saint John from other areas of Canada in 'secondary migrations.' 10:26

With files from Information Morning Moncton and Information Morning Fredericton