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Local agencies preparing for Syrian refugees, awaiting government direction

Mohammed Al-Shahoud and his wife Sara came to Kelowna from Syria this summer.
November 13, 2015 - 8:00 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - It's unknown how many Syrian refugees will be arriving in the souther Interior, but in the meantime, officials with the Immigrant Service Society of B.C. are looking for housing to place those escaping the conflict in the Middle East.

Director of settlment services Chris Friesen says the are awaiting to receive further direction from Premier Christy Clark’s office and the federal government, which may come as early as Monday.

“It’s going to be a busy week next week. I suspect by the middle of the week we’ll have more of the details to do concrete planning,” he says.

Friesen says while the majority of refugees are expected to remain in the Lower Mainland, the new arrivals will be absorbed province-wide.

“There are discussions around exploring other destinations outside of Metro Vancouver,” Friesen says, adding officials are eyeing up local housing options throughout the Okanangan like resorts in Naramata and barracks at the Vernon Cadet Training Centre in Vernon.

To increase capacity outside of Vancouver, Friesen says it’s a matter of determining enough resources are available, from English as a second language instructors, health services and mental health counsellors.

Friesen says he’s hoping individual directors from each community can join in discussions to ensure there’s enough resources available if families are relocated.

At this point, the Immigrant Services Society only knows the number of privately funded families moving to the Thompson-Okanagan. Four families are expected in the Kamloops area, two in the Vernon area and one in Kelowna.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Jessica Seguin says more details will be released in the coming days.

“As Minister John McCallum has stated, the government is committed to doing this fast, but also doing it right and doing it well,” she says.

Friesen says locals can advise the Immigrat Services Society on different housing options in their area.

To learn more, visit the society’s website.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at gbrothen@infonews.ca or call 250-319-7494. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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