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

  • Deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits central Mexico [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing some buildings, cracking the facades of others and scattering rubble on streets on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. Source
  • Suspect tells court he had sex with prostitute, but didn't rape and beat her

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The suspect in the brutal rape of a Calgary woman in a downtown parkade testified Tuesday someone else was responsible for the attack. Andy Dick Ntunaguza told a two-woman, 10-man jury he had consensual sex with the woman after paying her $50. Source
  • Washington state school shooting suspect pleads not guilty

    World News Toronto Sun
    SPOKANE, Wash. — A 15-year-old boy accused of killing a student at his rural Washington state high school and wounding three others has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, according to court documents made public Tuesday. Source
  • From 'bold' to 'ignorant': world leaders react to Trump's UN speech

    World News CTV News
    Reaction from around the world to President Donald Trump's speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly: Margot Wallstrom, foreign minister of Sweden: "This was a bombastic, nationalist speech. It must have been decades since one last heard a speech like that in the U.N. Source
  • Trudeau says Canada ready to help Mexico after deadly earthquake

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is ready to help "our friends" in Mexico following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that killed dozens and collapsed buildings. Calling the quake in central Mexico "devastating," Trudeau said on Twitter that his thoughts are with those affected by the disaster. Source
  • 100,000 Canadian victims: What we know about the Equifax breach — and what we don't

    Canada News CBC News
    It's been nearly two weeks since the credit monitoring company Equifax admitted it had suffered one of the largest data breaches in recent memory — exposing the personal information of a whopping 143 million U.S. consumers. Source
  • Dog’s carcass dragged on Alabama highway

    World News Toronto Sun
    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Transportation says “appropriate action will be taken” after photos were posted to Facebook showing a department truck dragging a dog’s body on an interstate. Al.com reports April Bennett was driving with her 5-year-old son on Interstate 20 on Tuesday when she spotted the lifeless body of a dog, which she says appeared to be a German shepherd, being dragged behind the truck. Source
  • Bedroom sharing rules shut door on affordable housing for some families

    Canada News CBC News
    Remember the mixed-gender nursery with Wendy and the boys in Peter Pan? It turns out the Darling parents could never have let their children share stories in one bedroom if they lived in a Canadian co-op that follows the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) National Occupancy Standard. Source
  • Indigenous design team to represent Canada at 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- An Indigenous design team led by architect Douglas Cardinal will represent Canada at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. The Canada Council for the Arts says their project, titled "Unceded," reflects "on our country's need for reconciliation. Source
  • Sinkhole swallows part of Florida home [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    APOPKA, Fla. — A Florida home has been partially swallowed up by a massive sinkhole. Orange County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Kat Kennedy says crews responded Tuesday morning, shortly after the Apopka house began sinking. She says the sinkhole measured about 20 feet across and 15 feet deep. Source