Unable to find work, many Syrian refugees reluctantly turn to social assistance – Nova Scotia

Not unexpected. Takes many refugees longer to establish themselves:

For their first year after landing in Canada, refugees are supported by either the federal government or private groups. But that support has ended for most Syrian refugees, and many of those unable to find jobs have turned to provincial social assistance.

Just shy of 1,500 Syrian refugees landed in Nova Scotia between November 2015 and July this year. Of those, more than half — 894 adults and children — were on income assistance as of late September, according to the province’s Department of Community Services.

Syrian refugees represent about two per cent of the total number of Nova Scotians receiving such benefits. Income assistance in Nova Scotia includes $620 a month for shelter for a family of three or more, and an additional $275 per adult and $133 per child each month for personal expenses. Families may also qualify for the Canada child benefit program.

The problem for many refugees who haven’t found work is a lack of English-language skills. Another is having Syrian work or educational credentials that aren’t recognized in Canada.

via Unable to find work, many Syrian refugees reluctantly turn to social assistance – Nova Scotia – CBC News


A [Kellie Leitch] Tweet Stirs Up Canada’s Immigration Debate – The New York Times

Why does it take the NYT to report this? How did the Canadian media (to my knowledge) miss this important background:

Mr. Rafia and his wife, Raghda Aldndal, were the subject of a sensitive and probing documentary about Canada’s Syrian refugees, produced by two Australian filmmakers last year. The film, “Canada’s Open House,” gives an unusual opportunity to look more deeply into the case.

Canada’s Open House Video by SBS Dateline

Dawn Burke, chairwoman of the group that sponsored the Rafia family in the small town of Chipman, New Brunswick, said she used interpreters multiple times to explain Canadian laws, including those against domestic violence, to Mr. Rafia.

The larger issue that the case illustrates, said one of the filmmakers, Amos Roberts, is the difficulty that many older refugees, particularly men, face in adapting to new lives in a foreign culture. More than 40,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Canada, almost half of them sponsored privately by ordinary citizens like Ms. Burke.

“To expect new immigrants, especially refugees, to adapt within a year or two is mind-boggling,” said Professor Hamza, the interpreter.

“You feel like a stranger,” Mr. Rafia said in the documentary, which was made shortly after the family’s arrival. “Guantánamo Bay is a prison on an island. It’s the same here.”

The couple’s arranged marriage was already troubled in Syria, and Mr. Rafia admitted early on that he had beaten his wife in the past, Ms. Burke said.

“We made it very clear that he was not allowed to hit his wife,” she added.

The family eventually moved to Fredericton, a city where they would be closer to a Syrian community and jobs were more plentiful. But the marriage did not improve and on May 18, Ms. Aldndal showed up at a Fredericton hospital with injuries from a beating. Mr. Rafia was arrested and pleaded guilty on May 26.

Right-leaning media picked up the story, accusing Canadian liberals of welcoming wolves in sheep’s clothing.

But few who understand the case see it as an indictment of Canada’s multicultural immigration policies or its progressive refugee outreach. “It’s not a legacy. It’s an exception,” Ms. Burke said, referring to the line that Ms. Leitch posted.

Mr. Roberts, the filmmaker, said it was “horrifying to see this one incident become a useful bit of propaganda” for anti-immigration forces.

Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year. Then Came ‘Month 13.’ – The New York Times

Good long and nuanced read on the challenges of one Syrian family and their Canadian sponsors:

One year after Canada embraced Syrian refugees like no other country, a reckoning was underway.

Ordinary Canadians had essentially adopted thousands of Syrian families, donating a year of their time and money to guide them into new lives just as many other countries shunned them. Some citizens already considered the project a humanitarian triumph; others believed the Syrians would end up isolated and adrift, stuck on welfare or worse. As 2016 turned to 2017 and the yearlong commitments began to expire, the question of how the newcomers would fare acquired a national nickname: Month 13, when the Syrians would try to stand on their own.

On a frozen January afternoon, Liz Stark, a no-nonsense retired teacher, bustled into a modest apartment on the east side of this city, unusually anxious. She and her friends had poured themselves into resettling Mouhamad and Wissam al-Hajj, a former farmer and his wife, and their four children, becoming so close that they referred to one another as substitute grandparents, parents and children.

But the improvised family had a deadline. In two weeks, the sponsorship agreement would end. The Canadians would stop paying for rent and other basics. They would no longer manage the newcomers’ bank account and budget. Ms. Stark was adding Mr. Hajj’s name to the apartment lease, the first step in removing her own.

“The honeymoon is over,” she said later.

That afternoon, her mind was on forms, checks and her to-do list. But she knew that her little group of grandmothers, retirees and book club friends was swimming against a global surge of skepticism, even hatred, toward immigrants and refugees. The president of the superpower to the south was moving to block Syrians and cut back its refugee program. Desperate migrants were crossing into Canada on foot. Stay-out-of-our-country sentiment was reshaping Europe’s political map. In a few days, an anti-Muslim gunman would slaughter worshipers at a Quebec City mosque.

Ms. Stark and her group were betting that much of the world was wrong — that with enough support, poor Muslims from rural Syria could adapt, belong and eventually prosper and contribute in Canada. Against that backdrop, every meeting, decision and bit of progress felt heightened: Would the family succeed?

Ms. Stark’s most crucial task that day was ushering the Syrian couple to a budget tutorial. Banks were new to them. So were A.T.M. cards. Because the sponsors paid their rent and often accompanied them to make withdrawals, the couple had little sense of how to manage money in a bank account.

Some of Canada’s new Syrian refugees had university degrees, professional skills, fledgling businesses already up and running. But the Hajjes could not read or write, even in Arabic. After a year of grinding English study, Mr. Hajj, 36, struggled to get the new words out. He longed to scan a supermarket label or road sign with ease and had grown increasingly upset about his second-grade education, understanding how inadequate it would prove in the years to come.

Documents reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrian refugee claimants

Interesting insights into how the vetting and selection process worked:

One had been a senior government official complicit in human rights abuses. Three had been involved in “subversion by force.” Another was considered a danger to the security of Canada.

Government documents obtained by the National Post reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrians as refugees, and provide a “high-level overview” of the backgrounds of those who were selected.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada documents, released under the Access to Information Act, summarize the results of interviews of Syrian refugees conducted by visa officers in Beirut.

The refusal rate for Syrian refugees was 4 per cent according to the documents, which, though released only recently, date to the early stages of the Syrian refugee program, when the Liberal government was trying to fulfill a campaign promise to resettle 25,000 by the end of 2015.

During the first month the Liberals were in office, Canadian visa officers refused Syrian refugee claimants 35 times for everything from failing to answer questions truthfully to uncertainty about their identities.

Between 2014 and Nov. 17, 2015 83 applicants were refused — five of those for security reasons. (Because some may have been rejected for more than one reason, it is unclear exactly how many Syrians were turned away in total.)

According to the documents, the Syrians accepted as refugees came from five areas: Aleppo, Hassakeh, Damascus, Homs and the Dara’a and Sweida region along the Jordanian border in the south.

Those from Aleppo were “virtually all” Armenian families with one or two children. Most were “self-employed businessmen and tradesmen (welders, mechanic, jewelers) with moderate to high levels of wealth,” it said.

The oft repeated narrative with this group was that they were forced to take flight very suddenly, in the middle of the night or early morning upon discovering that the Daesh (ISIL) was marching on their town or village

They tended to be from neighbourhoods close to Aleppo’s old city, near the frontline between government and opposition forces. Most had fled Syria in 2012, although some had stayed until as late as 2014 because they didn’t have the money or needed to care for elderly family members.

“Those who stayed longer tended to float between neighbourhoods staying with different family members. They moved as the fighting moved and intensified in different parts of the city,” a report on the interviews said.

They cited their reasons for leaving Syria as the complete lack of security. “There was no water or power, and regular shelling of neighbourhoods. There were a few accounts of client, client family members, or neighbours having been kidnapped and ransomed.”

In Beirut, most found work in their trades while others were employed part-time at places such as restaurants. Those lacking money or jobs “tended to migrate back and forth between Lebanon and Syria,” the report said.

Source: Documents reveal why Canada rejected dozens of Syrian refugee claimants | National Post

Turkey begins process to give citizenship to eligible Syrian refugees | TRT World

Skills-based naturalization policy:

Turkey has begun the process of giving citizenship to some of the 3 million Syrian refugees living on its soil.

European countries are attracting Syrians with expertise and those with skills and capital.

It’s all part of a move announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give some of Turkey’s 3 million Syrian refugees citizenship.

Those who choose to be naturalised have to offer a skill set that’s valuable to Turkey.

Syrians in Turkey work in all kinds of fields.

And some of the most successful ones are able to employ others, both Syrians and Turks, in different workplaces.

The idea is for these successful people to be given the opportunity to apply for Turkish citizenship, at least in the first phase.

If the first phase is successful, more skilled Syrians may be invited to apply.

Those who have refugee status and are not eligible for citizeship, will retain their current status.

Source: Turkey begins process to give citizenship to eligible Syrian refugees | TRT World

Ottawa ends program reuniting Syrian refugees with relatives in Canada

Reasonable given lack of sponsors who may be using other avenues:

The federal government has quietly cancelled a program that matched private Canadian sponsors with Syrian refugees abroad who have relatives in Canada because of low sponsor turnout.

The Syrian Family Links Initiative was discontinued on Dec. 31. While families in Canada had registered more than 8,000 people for the program, only 36 private sponsors applied, for a total of 127 refugees.

“Given the ongoing crisis in Syria, the response by Syrian families in Canada to Family Links has been overwhelming, with 8,025 Syrian refugee family members being registered for sponsorship. Unfortunately, the number of refugees registered far exceeded the number of sponsors available,” read Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s website.

“As a result, the Syrian Family Links Initiative will be discontinued on December 31, 2016, due to the low turn-out of sponsors.”

The immigration department said many private sponsors already knew Syrian refugees in Canada with displaced family members overseas, and therefore few of them used Family Links. However, some people involved in refugee sponsorship said the program was not promoted enough.

The government does not track how many Syrian refugees sponsored through Family Links have arrived in Canada,. Nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees had landed in Canada as of Jan. 2 – 21,751 government assisted, 13,997 privately sponsored and 3,923 through a blended program of private and government sponsorship.

Source: Ottawa ends program reuniting Syrian refugees with relatives in Canada – The Globe and Mail

Last-minute wave of Syrian refugees lets Liberals keep their promise – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Another commitment met:

A trickle of incoming Syrian refugees turned to a stream late last year, helping the federal government to check off one of the key targets from its 2015 election campaign.

Nearly 2,000 government-supported Syrian refugees arrived in Canada in mid-December, bringing the total to more than 25,000 since the Liberal government took power in 2015 and began to admit thousands of people displaced and endangered by the turmoil in and around the Middle Eastern country.

The surge of new arrivals in late 2016 came thanks in part to the government taking a longer look at “a number of” refugee applications from earlier in the year for security or medical reasons, delaying travel to Canada that may otherwise have occurred earlier, according to departmental officials.

People in the refugee resettlement sector were preparing for the December arrivals, said one sector executive. The executive and another said the government tipped them off ahead of time about the expected late-year surge. They said the few thousand government-supported refugees who arrived in the last couple of months of 2016 was nothing compared to the influx in the first two months of the year, when the government pressed to meet its target of bringing in 25,000 refugees through both private and government streams.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada could not provide statistics by press time on how many refugee applications required more time for security or medical screening, or how many of those cases were rejected. Spokesperson Nancy Chan wrote that those individuals had “more complex” cases that required more time to evaluate, but added the government used the same security and health screens for all Syrian refugees.

The government had promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees through its government-assisted and blended refugee programs by the end of the year—not be confused with an earlier target of 25,000 Syrians from private and government streams by the end of February.

…It appeared through much of last year that the government would miss its end-of-year 25,000-person goal, perhaps badly. About 11 new Syrian refugees were entering Canada each day on average between March and the beginning of August, far off the pace needed for the government to hit the target it was then several thousand people shy of, according to data published by the department roughly every week.

However, the number of refugees arriving in Canada rose steadily in the finals months of 2016. About 56 Syrians arrived per day on average in mid-November; that jumped to an average of 77 per day by Dec. 4, then 136 per day between Dec. 11 and Dec. 19, when the government surpassed its target.

The federal immigration department says the surge in new arrivals late in the year was not out of the ordinary; immigration officials worked steadily over the months to meet their year-end target, and there is typically a three-to-six-month delay between when applicants are given their first interview and the time they arrive in Canada, according to emailed responses from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada spokespeople.

The government “made it clear” early on to refugee resettlement organizations that there would be a wave of refugees arriving late in the year, said Louisa Taylor, director of Ottawa’s Refugee 613, a coalition of groups that support refugees.

Syrian refugees need better ways to reconnect with their families 

One view by Anneke Smit, Gemma Smyth and Jillian Rogin:

We know that in order to bring in more than 25,000 refugees in just a couple of months, complicated files were avoided, as were single young male refugees. Therefore, some of the most vulnerable were not offered resettlement, even when other members of the family were. In the case of the refugees our group is sponsoring, 10 family members were living together for years under one roof in Lebanon. The nuclear family of husband, wife and four young children was selected for resettlement while the other family members – elderly parents, orphaned nephew, and brother aged 18 – were not. Neither was another sibling, her spouse and young children. Given the limited options for family reunification after arrival in Canada, this selective approach is particularly distressing.

As a result, Syrian refugees will have to look to private sponsorship (groups of five, for example) as their only hope for extended family reunification. This process is complex and financially out of reach for most resettled refugees for at least several years. In the case of “our” family, they found in us a sponsor group willing to raise the funds and sponsor their most vulnerable family members. But that shouldn’t have been necessary had the family been resettled together, or if family reunification channels were more expansive.

This “echo effect” of our massive and laudable Syrian resettlement effort is not going away. During the Kosovo refugee resettlement in 1999, Canada allowed for reunification of a wide array of extended family members of Kosovars already in Canada. We can do the same again today. Along with adequate language training, employment support, mental health counselling and other settlement services, reuniting families is a key part of ensuring this was a job well done.

Source: Syrian refugees need better ways to reconnect with their families – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI Immigration au Québec: les Syriens détrônent les Français | Pierre-André Normandin | National


Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l'Immigration... (Photo Alain Roberge, archives La Presse)

Latest immigration statistics from Quebec showing the impact of Syrian refugees:

Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l’Immigration du Québec démontrent qu’un nouvel arrivant sur 7 lors du 1er semestre de 2016 était originaire de Syrie.

L’arrivée massive de réfugiés syriens au début de 2016 a profondément modifié le visage de l’immigration au Québec. Les Syriens ont en effet détrôné les Français comme principal groupe d’immigrants, selon les données de l’Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ).

Le bilan démographique du Québec, publié aujourd’hui par l’ISQ, dresse le portrait de l’immigration dans la province. Les données obtenues auprès du ministère de l’Immigration du Québec démontrent qu’un nouvel arrivant sur 7 lors du 1er semestre de 2016 était originaire de Syrie.

Il s’agit du principal groupe d’immigrants à s’installer au Québec. Cette proportion est nettement plus forte que la part d’immigration observée en 2015. La Syrie représentait 5,9% de toute l’immigration l’année dernière.

En 2015, le principal groupe d’immigrants provenait de la France. Ceux-ci ont représenté 9,2% de toutes les personnes ayant décidé de quitter leur pays pour s’installer au Québec. L’arrivée des Français dans la belle province ne s’est pas tarie en 2016, au  contraire. Ceux-ci représentaient au premier semestre tout près d’un immigrant sur dix.

Alors que l’immigration en provenance de Syrie augmente rapidement, l’Institut note une baisse du nombre de personnes venant s’établir au Québec en provenance de l’Iran, de l’Algérie et d’Haïti. Ces pays ont longtemps été une importante source d’immigration pour la province.

Le portait de l’immigration au Québec est sensiblement différent de celui du reste du Canada. Les Philippines fournissent le principal contingent d’immigrants pour le pays, suivi par l’Inde. Ces deux pays ne figurent pas parmi les principaux groupes d’immigrants au Québec.

Part de l’immigration par pays

Rang 1er semestre de 2016 2015
1. Syrie: 14,5 % France: 9,2 %
2. France: 9,9 % Chine: 7,4 %
3. Chine: 6,7 % Iran: 7,3 %
4. Iran: 5,2 % Syrie: 5,9 %
5. Haïti: 4,6 % Algérie: 5,5 %

‘Frustrating’ backlog of refugee applications will likely get longer as federal targets drop

Not terribly surprising, both the year-to-(exceptional)-year decline and the resulting frustration:

Spurred on by this year’s fast-tracking of displaced Syrians, nearly 30,000 more people are in line to come to Canada as refugees — but they may be in for a wait as the total number of refugees to be resettled in the coming year is much lower than this year’s target.

According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada there are 4,264 Syrians with approved applications who are waiting to fly to Canada.

Another 25,756 applications are pending final processing.

Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSBC) calls the 2016 push to resettle tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by a bloody conflict a “bold humanitarian mission.”

“It captured the world’s attention, and, of course, captured Syrian’s interest in the region.”

But with reduced numbers for the refugees to be resettled next year, and the large inventory of applications already being processed by Canada’s immigration offices, Syrian families hoping to come here could be waiting for years.

“It’s something that we need to look at — there is a lot of pent up interest,” Friesen says. Based on current processing times and the already-existing backlog, Friesen says “it could take the government three years to address the private sponsorship applications on file.”

The federal government says 2017 numbers will be lower compared to what it calls the “extraordinary target” in 2016. In 2016, the target for refugees and protected persons was 55,800. In 2017, that number drops to 40,000. But that is for all refugees from across the world, not only from Syria.

As telling, the target number of government assisted refugees (GARS) drops to 7,500 next year, from more than 18,000 over the last 12 months.

….Some patterns emerged when ISSBC surveyed 300 Syrian households who arrived in B.C.

Roughly 17 per cent of the people surveyed say they have found part-time or full-time work. English classes have been popular, with 75 per cent of the respondents saying they had signed up.

Fifteen per cent of the people surveyed reflect symptoms of untreated trauma, ISSBC says.

And three quarters of the newly arrived refugees have family members left in the Middle East who want to come to Canada.

Canada’s immigration department said it’s in the process of finalizing a broad report called “Rapid Impact Evaluation” that will look at how the 26,000 refugees who came by March 2016 are adjusting in Canada but the department would not yet reveal its findings.