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Refugees facing challenging reality in Metro Vancouver: advocate

Last Updated Apr 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm PDT

Migrants and refugees queue to enter on a camp after crossing the Greek border into Macedonia near Gevgelija on Oct. 8, 2015. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Robert Atanasovski.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – How are the Syrian refugees who arrived in that major wave back in December doing?

The Immigrant Services Society (ISS) talked with us about some of the challenges these people are facing.

Imagine you arrive with your wife and four kids in Metro Vancouver from a war-torn country like Syria, and get a monthly housing allowance of under $900 to help you get started.

“The challenges begin to surface around untreated trauma, around stressors on the family, with family income,” says Chris Friesen with ISS.

Friesen says the challenging reality of their situation is starting to sink in for many of these new arrivals.

“We’re really seeing this as a larger poverty issue,” says Friesen. “How can we better support low-income families, regardless of whether they’re born in this province or arrive as refugees? That’s the key.”

Friesen wants to see income assistance increased for all of those in need, whether they be refugees or locals — pointing to the widespread use of food banks by these refugees when they first arrive.

ISS has been calling for this increase for years.

A total of 1,300 additional Syrian government-assisted refugees will be arriving in Metro Vancouver before year’s end, with a further 200 heading to Victoria. Beyond that, 458 non-Syrian refugees will also be settling in the Lower Mainland.