Syrian refugees in Red Deer are participating in a research study to shed light on their resettlement experiences in Alberta.
Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies will use information gathered to identify programs and services to support refugees’ employment, language training and social connections.
Remza Mujezinovic, immigration and settlement program supervisor with Catholic Social Services said 25 refugees in Red Deer participated in individual and group interviews on Friday with Arabic-speaking researchers.
As of Nov. 4, Alberta had 4,196 refugees according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
She said Red Deer currently has 36 Syrian families that includes 193 people. More are expected this month and some next year.
“With the second wave of Syrian refugees currently arriving, we need to know how Syrians are settling in – what is going well, what the challenges are, and how the experience can be improved,” Mujezinovic said.
She said government funding is coming to an end for some of the first wave of refugees who arrived last December.
“Language is a huge issue, not only for them but for other people, so it takes time. But overall they are really doing quite well.”
Catholic Social Services has five Arabic-speaking settlement counsellors and will provide them with services for as long as they need them, she said.
“It’s not that easy to adjust into Canadian society. You need to time to integrate and adjust and accept that you’re so far away from the rest of your family.”
One gap in services right now is a lack of mental health counsellors trained in cross-cultural awareness who speak Arabic, she said.
“It’s extremely difficult to do through interpreters. This is something we are looking into getting some funding to have somebody help them with information and reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with them if they feel homesick, if they feel anxiety or things like that,” Mujezinovic said.
The study funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, will be complete by the end of March and available publicly in the summer.
The research will build on the Provincial Needs Assessment: Improving Refugee Resettlement in Alberta report released in October that lists more than 1,400 programs and services in urban and rural municipalities serving the basic needs of refugees, such as language and employment.