160 Syrian refugees have now settled in Greater Victoria

One-hundred-and-sixty Syrian refugees have resettled in Greater Victoria over the past few weeks, more than half of whom are children.

One-hundred-and-sixty Syrian refugees have resettled in Greater Victoria over the past few weeks, more than half of whom are children.

Last month, the Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) announced 290 government-sponsored Syrian refugees will resettle in Victoria by the end of February.

Since then, 160 people, including roughly 88 children, have arrived and are now living in hotels until they can go through the federal government’s financial orientation and Resettle Assistance Program, according to ICA executive director Jean McRae.

“When they first arrive, people are very tired. You can imagine that people have been in precarious circumstances and have travelled and are not really sure what’s happening until they get here,” McRae said.

“Initially people need an opportunity to relax and get some good food.”

Most of the refugees are families of three to five people. There are a few families of seven and eight people, as well as a few singles and couples.

Now comes the task of finding housing with affordable rent.

“The challenge is that the amount of money they have — it isn’t a lot for housing, it’s on the low-rent side and that’s challenging for anyone is this community,” said McRae, noting because of the size of families, they will need housing with two to three bedrooms.

If the ICA cannot find housing for all families, some may be relocated to Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville, Comox or Campbell River, where there are other resettlement programs.

McRae said families need to be housed before the children can get settled into schools in their catchment area.

She’s not sure how many more refugees will resettle in Victoria by the end of the year.

Since December, Victoria has welcomed 28 privately-sponsored refugees (five families and one single person) and raised more than $1 million to help them resettle.

Anyone who can provide housing can visit icavictoria.org.