Toronto's aid groups preparing homes, classes for Syrian refugees
'Most important thing for refugees is to feel like they're settled,' community leader says
Toronto's aid organizations are trying to prepare homes before the arrival of thousands of Syrian refugees as Ottawa unveils details about their resettlement Tuesday.
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CBC has learned that about 900 refugees fleeing Syria will be processed every day between now and the new year — and that the majority of those are expected to settle in the Toronto and Montreal areas, which both have established Syrian immigrant communities.
The federal and provincial governments are preparing temporary housing in old hospitals and military bases for the first month of the refugees' arrival, the CBC has learned.
But the goal of these newcomers will be to find permanent homes, with the help of various community agencies, like the Arab Community Centre of Toronto.
"The goal is eventually to make their life look like my life," Mahmoud Allouch told CBC News Monday.
Allouch came to Canada from Syria to study at university and now he volunteers at the community centre. He said he wants to help others acclimatize to Canada — to see they get the access to physical and mental health care and arrange for interpreters and English teachers for those who may need them.
But home is the first priority.
"A lot of sponsor groups have offered spaces... so the idea is we'll become sort of a matchmaking service," he said.
The community centre has also made connections within the local business community so that they can help newcomers find work once they arrive.
'Everyone is stepping up to help, not only the Syrian community.' - Huda Bukhari, executive director Arab Community Centre of Toronto
Several firms have contacted the centre's executive director to say they are saving certain temporary positions for the refugees expected to settle in the city, she said.
"Everyone is stepping up to help, not only the Syrian community," Huda Bukhari said.
Bukhari said she's also been contacted by a Moroccan women's group and those in the local Sudanese community, all asking what they can do.
It's hard to have answers for them, without all the details, she said.
More details about the resettlement plan should be released Tuesday, following the prime minister's meeting with all the premiers Monday.
What is known, however, is that any refugees coming to Canada will receive an initial medical screening overseas, followed by another upon arrival, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins told reporters Monday.
While Hoskins said he could not release all the details about where refugees could be living in the short-term, he did say that he's confident the province has infrastructure in place to safely accept them.
Bukhari said she expects that the Syrian pockets of the Greater Toronto Area — like Scarborough, Mississauga and Oakville — will be most likely areas where newcomers might like to live.
"Hopefully, they're going to try to find some permanent housing," Bukhari said. "One of the most important thing for refugees is to feel like they're settled."