London is on track to welcome 975 Syrian refugees to the city by the end of February.
A city hall report going before the Community and Protective Services Committee next Wednesday says London welcomed 452 Syrian government-assisted refugees between December 20th, 2015 and February 1st, 2016. Approximately 56 privately-sponsored Syrian refugees have arrived in London and another 117 are being processed.
The Cross Cultural Learner Centre expects another 350 government assisted Syrian refugees to arrive in London by the end of the month, following by 500 more throughout the course of 2016. That would bring the total number of refugees in London up to 1,475 by the end of the year.
When government assisted refugees arrive in the city they either stay in the Jeremiah House, which is the residential setting at the Cross Cultural Learner Centre or they stay in a hotel or motel.
CCLC spokesperson Lina Hernandez said they’re working to find permanent housing solutions.
“It’s not easy but it’s not impossible and we’re fortunate because we work with a number of landlords. They’re helping us, we have our contacts, we have people who know us, that know what we’re doing, we know who the health co-ordinators are and we work with them closely.”
The majority of the refugees who have arrived in London are children. The city staff report says of the government-assisted refugees now in the city, 66% are children under the age of 18.
“We have hired new people to help us with the housing and we’re constantly moving. We feel good about the process and we hope to move them a little bit faster but right now we’re quite happy with how things are going,” said Hernandez.
The report serves as the first status update London City Hall has received since Canada began accepting Syrian refugees.
Elisabeth White, the co-chair of the London & Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership, said it’s a major task, but Londoners need to be up to the challenge.
“This community has welcomed immigrants for many years and immigrants are important members of our community. Welcoming Syrian newcomers is just another step in what we’ve been doing for years.”
As of February 4th, 16,565 Syrians have arrived in Canada since November 4th. Of that, 9,753 were government assisted, 5,639 privately sponsored and 1,173 as part of a program that blends the two.
The majority of those in Canada have settled in Ontario, about 7,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the province since December 10th. The federal government is aiming to settle 25,000 refugees by the end of February, with about two-thirds expected to be government-assisted.
On Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced $343,000 in funding for the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants for trauma and mental-health training for front-line workers as well as a public education campaign, plus $283,000 to deliver workshops and orientation resources to refugees.
The money is part of the $8.5 million Ontario pledged over 2.5 years to support refugees.