A five-day moratorium on the arrival of government-sponsored Syrian refugees in British Columbia is set to begin Tuesday, as the province struggles to accommodate refugee families that have been steadily arriving since late last year.
Chris Friesen, the director of settlement services for Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISS), says the moratorium will allow settlement workers time to catch up on housing needs.
The federal government has committed to resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees, 15,000 of them government-sponsored, before the end of February.
In an important milestone, the 10,000th Syrian refugee arrived in Canada last week.
READ MORE: Syrian refugees find their new home in B.C. as crisis worsens
So far, 700 government-sponsored refugees have arrived in B.C., but only seven families have found permanent housing. Last weekend, the Vancouver Park Board hoped to soon learn whether some caretaker cottages in the city could be used to house Syrian refugees. There are 71 such buildings in parks across Vancouver, and it’s believed three may have the basic requirements for migrants.
Friesen says they have a list of 1,100 “housing leads” to access for suitability.
But the lack of affordable housing in the Metro Vancouver area along with the challenge of finding suitable housing for families with kids are contributing to the backlog.
Vancouver is not alone as the City of Ottawa has also asked the federal government to slow down the arrival of Syrian refugees.
“We are working with (these communities) to try to ease the strain they are currently experiencing, which includes pausing arrivals for a few days as we continue toward the goal of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees across Canada by the end of February,” read a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The department stated that it is “redirecting refugees to other centres during this time.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it is also working with settlement providers to monitor the movement of refugees into and out of temporary accommodation to determine when capacity opens to welcome additional refugees and to re-destine some refugees to other locations when necessary.