More than 100 Syrian refugees arrive at N.B. resort hotel

FRENCH VILLAGE, N.B. -- More than 100 Syrian refugees have arrived at a resort hotel west of Fredericton in the past week, but the group in charge isn't saying how long they will stay or how many more are expected.

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Local officials are restricting journalists' access to the site, citing privacy concerns.

Lisa Bamford, executive director of the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, which is in charge of the project, described the privately sponsored refugees as "vulnerable people" whose privacy must be protected.

"They are not commodities," she said Tuesday as dozens of men, women and children milled about the lobby of the resort on the Saint John River. "We have to respect and protect their privacy."

Bamford declined to say how many refugees were staying at the resort, where they came from, how long they were expected to stay or how many more were expected to arrive.

Earlier this week, a local media report said that as of last Wednesday, dozens of Syrian refugees were arriving daily at the 14-hectare resort, which is typically experiencing slow business at this time of year.

General manager Shane Hashemi told the Fredericton Gleaner there were 90 refugees at the resort by last weekend and up to 250 in total were expected to arrive in the days ahead, filling the hotel to capacity.

Hashemi said extra cribs and playpens were brought in because the average family has an average of five children in tow. He is also quoted as saying security guards were hired to make sure the children don't go near the river or the highway.

The secrecy at the resort stands in contrast to the very public displays that Canadians have witnessed in recent months as thousands of refugees have been welcomed to 260 communities across the country.

On Dec. 11, 2015, the first group of Syrian refugees airlifted to Canada checked in to their Toronto hotel, but not before they were met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and a large group of reporters and photographers.

Immigration Minister John McCallum was at Toronto's Pearson airport Feb. 29 as the last two government-arranged refugee flights arrived as part of the Liberals' $678-million settlement plan.

Some settlement agencies have said housing remains the biggest challenge. Charities providing furniture to the refugees, meanwhile, have said they struggle to keep up with demand.

In late February, the federal government issued a tender for 150 hotel rooms in Fredericton area to house refugees.

As of March 1, 26,166 refugees have arrived in Canada, according to the federal government.

The Canadian government reached its goal of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of February, but more are expected to arrive in the months ahead. The government pledged to resettle a total of 25,000 government-assisted Syrians by the end of the year, and have about 10,000 more to bring.

Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, said refugees' stay in temporary accommodations can vary from days to several weeks.

Caron said more than 60% of government-supported Syrian refugees nationally are now living in permanent accommodations, and that will increase quickly now that the flow of new arrivals is slowing.

An estimated 4.7 million Syrians have registered as refugees since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, but the UN refugee agency is not seeking permanent new homes for that many.

The UN has reached out to countries to take in the refugees and only Germany has made more official spaces formally available than Canada.


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