Red Cross racing to prep military bases for Syrian refugees

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

  • Mali prime minister lashes out at France, UN, saying country had been 'stabbed in the back'

    World News CTV News
    Mali's prime minister lashed out Saturday at former colonizer France, the UN. secretary-general and many people in between, saying that the tumultuous country had been "stabbed in the back" by the French military withdrawal. In the same remarks, Abdoulaye Maiga praised the "exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia. Source
  • China on Taiwan: 'External interference' won't be tolerated

    World News CTV News
    UNITED NATIONS - China underscored its commitment Saturday to its claim to Taiwan, telling world leaders that anyone who gets in the way of its determination to reunify with the self-governing island would be "crushed by the wheels of history. Source
  • Pharoah Sanders, influential saxophonist revered in jazz world, dead at 81

    World News CBC News
    Pharoah Sanders, the influential tenor saxophonist revered in the jazz world for the spirituality of his work, has died, his record label announced. He was 81. Sanders, also known for his extensive work alongside John Coltrane in the 1960s, died in Los Angeles early Saturday, said the post on Twitter from Luaka Bop, the label that released his 2021 album, Promises. Source
  • Queen Elizabeth II's final resting place revealed in new Windsor Castle photograph

    World News CTV News
    Buckingham Palace has released a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II's final resting place within St. George's Chapel following her interment in Windsor on Monday. An engraved ledger stone featuring the name of the late monarch was installed in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, an annex to the main chapel, on Monday evening after a private service attended by her family. Source
  • Russian police block mobilization protests, arrest hundreds

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW - Russian police moved quickly Saturday to disperse peaceful protests against President Vladimir Putin's military mobilization order, arresting hundreds, including some children, in several cities across the vast country. Police detained more than 700 people, including over 300 in Moscow and about 150 in St. Source
  • Families mourn as death toll from sunken Lebanon migrant boat rises to 86

    World News CBC News
    The death — toll from a migrant boat that sank off the Syrian coast after sailing from Lebanon earlier this week has risen to 86, Syrian state TV reported on Saturday. The sinking marks the deadliest such voyage yet from Lebanon, where mounting economic desperation has led many to board often rickety and overcrowded boats in the hope of reaching Europe. Source
  • Families mourn as death toll from sunken Lebanon migrant boat rises to 94

    World News CBC News
    The death — toll from a migrant boat that sank off the Syrian coast after sailing from Lebanon earlier this week has risen to 86, Syrian state TV reported on Saturday. The sinking marks the deadliest such voyage yet from Lebanon, where mounting economic desperation has led many to board often rickety and overcrowded boats in the hope of reaching Europe. Source
  • NASA cancels moon rocket launch for 3rd time due to possible hurricane

    World News CBC News
    NASA is skipping next week's launch attempt of its new moon rocket because of a tropical storm that's expected to become a major hurricane. It's the third delay in the past month for the lunar-orbiting test flight featuring mannequins but no astronauts, a followup to NASA's Apollo moon-landing program of a half-century ago. Source
  • Ukrainian cities shelled as Russia pushes forward with Moscow-orchestrated vote

    World News CBC News
    Russian forces launched new strikes on Ukrainian cities as Kremlin-orchestrated votes took place in occupied regions of Ukraine to create a pretext for their annexation by Moscow. Ukraine's presidential office said the latest Russian shelling killed at least three people and wounded 19. Source
  • Port aux Basque under state of emergency as Fiona sweeps houses out to sea

    Canada News CTV News
    The town of Port aux Basque in Newfoundland and Labrador is under a state of emergency as first responders cope with electrical fires, residential flooding, and washoutsdue to post-tropical storm Fiona. According to the RCMP in the province, Fiona wreakedhavoc Saturdayon the small coastal townthat sits on the far,southwestern tip of Newfoundland. Source