One year in, Syrian refugees taking to new home in Red Deer

Nearly a year after more than 200 Syrian refugees came to Red Deer, they are working, volunteering or learning in the community.

Newly released data from Statistics Canada indicate 60 per cent of refugees that came to Canada in 2014 had employment income. In Alberta, employment grows to 80 per cent.

Fred Bauer, Central Alberta Refugee Effort executive director, said he didn’t have statistics on those who came to Red Deer 2016. However all of the Syrian refugees who came to the city are either working, volunteering or taking English as a second language classes so they can work.

As well, children who came are in school.

“Overall they are doing well,” said Bauer. “The signs I’m getting from the direct settlement workers, who deal with the families, they’re all positive.

“They still need lots of support. We see many of them in here on an almost daily basis with all kinds of questions including what they can do to bring their family over as well. They’re worried to death and want to make their family safe.”

A year ago, 37 government sponsored families came to Red Deer, 36 directly from Syria and one from another part of Canada. Another six privately or blended sponsored families came to the city.

“I know, in general, they’re doing well, given the difficult situation they were in before they came to Canada,” Bauer said. “Bear in mind in general, Canada took in the most vulnerable refugees. Those in the most need of support, those who have mental health issues like post-traumatic stress, people with low English language skills.”

The English as a second language classes are particularly important and because of additional federal funding, two more classes were added to what CARE and Catholic Social Services offer. There are 16 classes offered throughout the day.

“Given the community response and our capacity as immigrant settlement agencies, I think we could absorb more refugees,” said Bauer. “We haven’t been given any indication from the federal government if they want to take in more refugees.

“We’d like to help more.”

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