Syrian refugees settling in ‘non-traditional’ B.C. locations

May 8, 2017

By Jennifer Saltman, Vancouver Sun |

From the west end of Vancouver to Chilliwack, government-assisted Syrian refugees are settling in unexpected areas thanks to relatively affordable pockets of housing and the generosity of landlords and the public.

The Immigrant Services Society of B.C. released a report this week tracking the settlement patterns of government-assisted Syrian refugees who arrived in B.C. between Nov. 4, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016.

During that time, there were two major influxes of government-assisted Syrian refugees, with more than 40,000 people resettled in Canada. More than 3,600 ended up in 69 communities throughout B.C., with the majority living in Metro Vancouver.

The Immigrant Services Society directly settled 1,952 of these refugees, or 78 per cent of those who arrived in B.C., including providing reception services and housing. Those were the people tracked in the report.

“This was a first for us,” Chris Friesen, the society’s director of settlement services, said of the report.

Where these families settle in Metro Vancouver largely correlates with where they can find affordable housing. Government-assisted Syrian refugee households receive one year of federal resettlement income assistance, the amount depending on family size and composition. For instance, a family with two adults and three children would receive $1,399 to $1,499 per month.

Almost three-quarters of the refugees settled by the Immigrant Services Society found permanent homes in the suburbs, largely because of the need to find large rental units to house big families within constrained budgets.

For these reasons, Surrey has been the largest recipient of government-assisted refugees settled in B.C. for more than a decade, and has the largest concentration of Syrian refugee households in the province.

The city is home to 1,082, or 43 per cent, of the Syrian refugees who were settled by the Immigrant Services Society.

The Tri-Cities, Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver have also traditionally received large numbers of government-assisted refugees, and this wave was no different. Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam are home to 132 Syrian refugees, Burnaby-New Westminster has 197, and Vancouver 191.

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