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

  • RCMP commissioner warns continued IT failures will have 'catastrophic' consequences

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's top cop is warning that ongoing computer network failures and slipshod service from Shared Services Canada could have "catastrophic" consequences for police and the public. CBC News has obtained a blistering Jan. 20, 2017, memo to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in which Commissioner Bob Paulson details how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since the beleaguered department took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Source
  • Tax-free saving schemes fail to prepare many for retirement: Don Pittis

    Canada News CBC News
    With the RRSP deadline only days away, the inventor of one of Canada's tax sheltered saving plans says there is evidence such schemes have failed to encourage people to save properly, and he warns there are changes afoot. Source
  • 'You can lose everything': Tenant's medical marijuana grow-op costs landlord insurance

    Canada News CBC News
    Longtime landlord Darryl Spencer was left scrambling for insurance after discovering a tenant was growing dozens of medical marijuana plants inside and outside his rental house. When the landlord told his insurance company about the perfectly legal grow-op, his coverage was cancelled, leaving him with no insurance, few rights and a big cleanup bill. Source
  • Battered eastern Ukraine seems headed into protracted on-and-off war

    World News CBC News
    On Feb. 19, one day before the latest attempt at a ceasefire in Ukraine, 51-year-old Vitaliy Yermolovich sat in the ruins of his home in Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine and laughed. "So, it'll be the 30th ceasefire?" he said, looking toward his neighbour, Telman Salimov, who fled the conflict in Karabakh nearly 30 years ago for the safety of Ukraine. Source
  • Father of dead Navy SEAL refused to meet Trump, wants Yemen raid investigated

    World News CBC News
    The father of a Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen is demanding an investigation into its planning and criticized the Trump administration for its timing. Bill Owens told The Miami Herald in a story published Sunday that he refused to meet with President Donald Trump when both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son, Chief Special Warfare Officer William (Ryan) Owens. Source
  • Ex-congregants of evangelical church reveal years of abuse

    World News CTV News
    SPINDALE, N.C. -- From all over the world, they flocked to this tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror - waged in the name of the Lord. Source
  • Indonesian police kill suspected militant during attack

    World News CTV News
    BANDUNG, Indonesia - Indonesian police said they shot and killed a suspected militant in the West Java capital of Bandung on Monday after his bomb exploded in a vacant lot and he fled into a municipal building and set it alight. Source
  • Parade float crashes into specators during Rio's Carnival

    World News CBC News
    A float crashed during Rio de Janeiro's world famous Carnival parade Sunday evening and injured at least 12 people, including at least one person reported in serious condition, but organizers proceeded with the show. The incident involved the last float of the first samba school parading through Rio's Sambadrome. Source
  • 'This is not a joke': Confusion, Moonlight and other Oscar highlights

    World News CBC News
    There was drama, comedy and even a plot twist on Sunday at the 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Here are a few memorable moments that stood out and, of course, the one that stood above the rest. Source
  • U.S. officials not yet authorized to vet Australia refugees

    World News CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia - U.S. security officers have yet to be authorized by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to vet refugees held on Pacific islands for potential resettlement in the United States, an Australian official said on Monday. Source