Nova Scotia

Syrian refugees's apartment was checked for bedbugs, says ISANS

The head of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia says staff thoroughly inspected an apartment to ensure it was bedbug-free before moving in a family of six Syrian refugees near the end of January.

Immigration agency says apartments are thoroughly inspected for pests, bedbugs before refugee placement

Ziad Zeina (right) has been trying to get his family out of their two-bedroom apartment on Gerrish Street because he says their home is infested with bedbugs. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia says staff thoroughly inspected an apartment to ensure it was bedbug-free before moving in a family of six Syrian refugees on Feb. 1.

Director of operations Gerry Mills said families are moved into safe and appropriate housing, and ISANS staff keep the health and well-being of refugees in mind.

"Our staff know what bedbugs look like and since Friday we've had staff there every day in different apartments, honestly trying to look for bedbugs. We have found not one bedbug," she said.

Gerry Mills, director of operations at ISANS, says the Zeinas's apartment was swept for bedbugs. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

On Tuesday, Ziad Zeina told CBC News through an interpreter that he wanted to get his family out of their two-bedroom apartment on Gerrish Street because the bedbug problem "is non-stop and it's not going to change and there's no solution at this moment." 

But Mills said one of the first steps workers take is to inquire with building managers whether the biting pests are a problem on site.

In the case of Harbour View Apartments where the Zeinas live, Mills said building managers took the preventive step of fumigating their unit even though it did not have bedbugs.

"You can actually tell because there's still kind of an actual vague smell in them [apartments]," Mills said.

Or was it a pre-existing skin condition?

The Zeinas are government-assisted refugees who stayed briefly in Charlottetown and decided to settle in Halifax at the end of January. 
Wafaa Al Safadi holds her 10-month-old son, Rayan Zeina. She says he is covered in bed bug bites. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The family insists there's a bedbug issue and Wafaa Al Safadi lifted her baby's shirt to reveal his chest and back covered in scabs and red rashes.

But Mills said the baby has a pre-existing skin condition.

"The marks were on the child even before they moved into that apartment. When they were in the hotel, we spoke with the family then about taking the child to the doctor to get some medication."

Continued checks

Rana Zaman is one of the founding members of United for One, a volunteer group that's working with ISANS to help to settle refugees. She said she believes the baby's skin problems are being exacerbated by new bedbug bites. 

Some furniture was donated to the family, Zaman said. 

ISANS said there are 16 families of Syrian refugees living in the same building and no other families have complained about the blood-sucking insects. 

Mills said staff continue to check for bedbugs and will keep working with the Zeina family to address their concerns.

"They're a refugee family and we want them to be happy and settled."

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at


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