Some 143 Syrians now in city under federal program

Twenty-seven government sponsored Syrian refugee families are calling Red Deer home.

Twenty-seven government sponsored Syrian refugee families are calling Red Deer home.

The most recent arrival, a family of three, is expected to move into their new home on Thursday, said Remza Mujezinovic, program supervisor for Catholic Social Services Immigration and Settlement Services.

It will bring the total to 143 Syrian refugees who have settled in Red Deer under the federal program.

The new residents began arriving in late-December as part of the government’s commitment to re-settle 25,000 refugees by the end of February.

Mujezinovic said the welcoming response from the community including the major stakeholders including health, education, the City of Red Deer and other agencies made it all possible.

“You know this is the first time since I started working here and I came to Canada that the whole community was involved and aware of newcomers and our services,” said Mujezinovic, who came to Canada as a refugee from Bosnia about 22 years ago. “In terms of donations it was overwhelming. We were able to collect enough donations for each family so they didn’t need to spend any money or buy anything for the house … It was just simply amazing.”

The leftovers will be distributed to other newcomers in the city.

Mujezinovic said more refugees will come to Red Deer but not as many as the number that arrived over the last two months. She said this will include non-Syrian refugees.

The families have moved into homes throughout the city, many of which are next to another Syrian family.

“I think they feel much safer to be close to each other and to share their stories,” said Mujezinovic. “In Canada there are four seasons. Some people got sick but it is nothing out of the ordinary. They are trying to integrate. They are really eager to take English classes.”

Many have asked about working but learning English will be the first order of business, she said.

Most children are taking English As A Second Language classes in the public school district. The parents will take language assessment tests through the Central Alberta Refugee Effort before taking classes.

Catholic Social Services will help the families until they are capable of doing everything on their own. For some people, it may be a few years while others may require less time.

“It depends on the circumstances,” she said. “If they have small kids they might not be able to go school. It all depends on their level of English.”

crhyno@www.reddeeradvocate.com