Red Cross racing to prep military bases for Syrian reguees

OTTAWA -- Refugee agencies and the Red Cross are racing to line up housing for thousands of Syrians in the coming weeks as the focus of the Liberal government's program shifts from refugees with private sponsors to those assisted by the government alone.

See Full Article

Three military bases in Ontario and Quebec should be ready by the end of next week to provide essential services for government-assisted refugees, said Hossam Elsharkawi, associate vice president, international operations for the Canadian Red Cross.

"We are not able at this stage to quite understand how many weeks they will stay at these centres, but at least these centres will have the capacity of three to four thousand refugees," he said,

"If we need to grow that to larger, we will."

So far, the bases haven't had to be used in part because privately sponsored refugees -- representing about 10,000 of the 25,000 Syrians the Liberals say they will bring to Canada by the end of February -- have groups arranging housing. Those refugees formed the majority of the first wave of resettlement.

But with arrivals set to spool up in the remaining seven weeks of the program, especially those of government-assisted refugees, finding enough temporary housing has become an urgent issue.

Over the course of a normal year, Canada takes in about 7,000 government-assisted refugees, sent to one of the 36 cities with agreements in place to provide support services paid for by the federal government.

In many of these cities, organizations run residences that can handle a few hundred people at most for a few weeks while they search for more permanent housing.

Government-assisted refugees often arrive in clusters, but having 15,000 of them coming in the space of three months is overwhelming.

Regina usually receives about 215 government-assisted refugees a year but is preparing to handle 348 by the end of February.

"It's not too much more, but in the span of two months we are getting almost double what we get in a year, " said Getachew Woldeyesus of the Regina Open Door Society. "The pressure is not the number but it is the time frame."

Still, the extension of the original government deadline to resettle all 25,000 by the end of last year gave the group time to secure 300 apartments, thanks to the generosity of landlords and a lot of leg work.

As of Jan. 6, 6,974 Syrians had arrived in Canada. Currently, the overflow in other cities has been managed by accommodating people in hotels or motels.

Military bases are the option of last resort, said Debbie Douglas, executive director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

"It's difficult to have folks come from one camp into another military setting," she said.

Since the start of the program, military bases were eyed for housing needs, but neither the Defence Department nor the Immigration Department would elaborate Friday on the plan to use them.

CFB Kingston and CFB Valcartier have always been at the top of the list, followed by Meaford, Petawawa, Trenton and Borden.

"Due to the many factors influencing if and when a refugee will have to go to an (interim lodging site), it is premature to speculate on the scale of possible operations," Faith St. John, a spokesperson for the Immigration Department wrote in an e-mail.

Refugee agencies currently provide daily updates to the government on how many beds they have and some of the resettlement funding already allocated by the Liberals has gone to securing more space to avoid the use of bases.

A national shortage of affordable housing, especially in major cities, will make securing long-term housing for all refugees a challenge.

Several real estate firms have offered apartments, including Calgary-based Mainstreet Equities. It initially said it would provide up to 200 discounted apartments but is now looking at raising that number, said company president Bob Dhillon.

Prior to the end of 2015, there had been little interest in his offer but in recent days his office has been fielding dozens of calls.

"When somebody newly arrives into Canada, you can make their lives by offering a little assistance," he said. "That first home is everything."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Father of fashion designer Kate Spade dies on eve of her funeral

    World News CBC News
    The father of fashion designer Kate Spade died on the eve of her funeral, according to a statement released by her family shortly before her service began Thursday in her hometown of Kansas City. The family said 89-year-old Earl Brosnahan Jr. Source
  • North Korea pledges to destroy missile test engine site

    World News CTV News
    In this Wednesday, June 20, 2018, photo provided on Thursday, June 21, 2018, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and his wife Ri Sol Ju arrive at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, after returning from China. Source
  • Iraq set for election recount to salvage tainted result

    World News CBC News
    Iraq's Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed a manual recount of all ballots from last month's national elections, but rejected the invalidation of ballots from abroad and from voters displaced by recent conflict. Authorities have been struggling to address allegations raised by underperforming parties that the May vote was marred by fraud. Source
  • U.S. appeals court rules teen sniper's life sentences unconstitutional

    World News CBC News
    A U.S. federal appeals court on Thursday said a sniper serving life in prison without parole over deadly shootings that traumatized the Washington, D.C. area in 2002 must be re-sentenced in Virginia because he was only 17 at the time of his crimes. Source
  • Pentagon agrees to provide space for 20,000 migrant children

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon will make space available on military bases for as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children detained after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, a spokesman said Thursday. The request for temporary shelter -- amid a growing political battle over detained migrants -- was made by the Department of Health and Human Services and accepted by the Defence Department, said the spokesman, Army Lt. Source
  • Islanders getting phone calls in Mandarin in latest scam

    Canada News CBC News
    You've probably received a scam phone call in the past, but recently some people are getting calls in Mandarin. Groups who work with newcomers are warning about phone calls that appear to be trying to scam people and get your personal information. Source
  • U.S. mayors take stand against child separation at Texas border

    World News CBC News
    Mayors across the U.S. have travelled to Texas to take a stand against the separation of children from their families and placing them in cages at the border. U.S. lawmakers reject hard-right immigration bill The Trump administration has set up at least three "tender age" shelters to detain babies and other young children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S. Source
  • No 'hidden' message in Melania Trump's choice of jacket worn en route to children's shelter, spokesperson says

    World News CBC News
    Melania Trump boarded a flight to a facility housing migrant children separated from their parents wearing a jacket bearing the words "I really don't care, do u?" The green hooded spring military jacket has the words written graffiti-style on the back. Source
  • Controversial professor sues university over alleged remarks during TA's meeting

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Controversial professor and author Jordan Peterson is suing an Ontario university and three of its staff for defamation over remarks allegedly made when a teaching assistant was disciplined for showing a video of him to her class. Source
  • Trump scraps Obama policy on protecting oceans, Great Lakes

    World News CTV News
    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- U.S. President Donald Trump is throwing out a policy devised by his predecessor for protecting U.S. oceans and the Great Lakes, replacing it with a new approach that emphasizes use of the waters to promote economic growth. Source