Subject: Press Release - Syrian refugees: how are they doing after first year in BC?

December 9, 2016

Syrian refugees: how are they doing after first year in BC?
Report highlights key findings from consultations with Syrian youth and household heads

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A year after they arrived as part of the largest resettlement initiative in Canadian history by the newly-installed Trudeau government, 17% of Syrian government-assisted refugees (GARs) surveyed by ISSofBC are in full-time or part-time jobs. At the same time, over half of those surveyed reported they were accessing food banks on a regular basis to feed their families.

These are among findings in a report “Syrian Refugee Operations to British Columbia: One Year In – A Roadmap to Integration and Citizenship” released by ISSofBC this morning (available online at The report reflects feedback culled from a consultation meeting involving close to 60 Syrian newcomer youth from Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley, and a phone survey of over 300 heads of household from the same area.

In addition to income security, particularly the reduced income support under BC Income Assistance when GARs transition out of the federal income support system, refugees cited employment and training among their top concerns. Securing employment is a priority among many Syrian youth, and some have been known to drop out of high school in order to work and contribute to the family income.

Over 80% of those surveyed said through Arabic-speaking interpreters they had little or no English and an encouraging 76% said they are in government-funded language training. For those not enrolled, they’re seeing waits on average of four months but some have been waiting as long as 11 months. “Mastering the language….(is my most pressing need),” said one respondent.

The report also touched on respondents’ views on housing, health, mental well-being and family reunification. But even as they were vocal in sharing their concerns and issues, respondents were keen to express their gratitude to “all Canadians who opened their hearts for us.” “Canadians did not make us feel like we were refugees,” said one.


Patricia Woroch, CEO, ISSofBC –
“The experience of helping in the resettlement in BC of Syrian refugees caught in this unprecedented humanitarian crisis points to the positive results achieved through the effective collaboration between ISSofBC and all levels of government; we will continue to build on this collaborative partnership to ensure that all newcomers – whether refugees or not – integrate successfully into Canadian society.”

Chris Friesen
, Director, ISSofBC Settlement Services –
“Like previous refugee movements to Canada – Hungarians (1956), Ismailis (1972), Southeast Asians (1979-80), Kosovars (1999) and most recently Afghanis and Somalians – Syrians are well on their way as future Canadians, contributing in numerous positive ways to their new home and communities throughout BC.”

Quick Facts – Syrian Refugee Resettlement
  • Latest available stats show BC received 2,100 Syrian Government-Assisted Refugee (GARs), 424 Privately-Sponsored, and 326 Blended Visa Officer Referred Cases.
  • Syrian refugees have settled in over 50 communities in BC.
Quick Facts – ISSofBC
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