Levant Centre helps resettle Syrian Armenian refugees

Recently the Government of Canada announced the fulfillment of its 2015 election campaign promise to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. It was an important milestone for the government.

The resettlement of the refugees is a herculean task which requires the cooperation of the public and private sectors to resettle the newcomers in a dignified manner. This is an ongoing process which will take some time to complete.

Of the 25,000 refugees, 8,792 were privately sponsored, 2,207 were sponsored in a blended program and 14,921 were government-assisted refugees. Of the 8,792 privately sponsored refugees arriving in Toronto, around 1,800 are Armenian. In contrast to the government sponsored refugees, the privately sponsored refugees do not receive financial assistance other than airline tickets for those who arrived between Nov. 4, 2015 and Feb. 29, 2016. Thus, the privately sponsored refugees are dependent on their sponsors, friends, faith-based groups, and resettlement organizations. It is worth mentioning that the refugees are arriving with a few suitcases and have lost everything. Thus, they have to build a new life in a new country from almost zero.

In the past five months the Levant Settlement Centre and its volunteers have been working 24/7 in helping resettle the Armenians, who have arrived from Syria. The needs of the newcomers are diverse and numerous.

Accordingly, the team has provided transportation to the refugees’ various appointments and meetings, found accommodation, secured guarantors to lease apartments, acquired and delivered furniture and other essential household items, assisted in finding jobs, counseled them on educational matters, attended to their medical needs, translated documents from Arabic and Armenian into English, co-organized orientation sessions and job guidance seminars, provided legal advice, interpreted government policies and provided them accurate information regarding their status vis-à-vis the immigration department, in addition to miscellaneous services. Our Centre also liaised with non-Armenian faith-based groups which have sponsored Armenians and gave them guidance on how to communicate and interact with the refugees they have aided.

The Centre was also very active with many Canadian media outlets and various Canadian agencies and settlement organizations by providing them with objective analysis and up-to-date information on the Syrian Crisis and the refugees. Furthermore, we have facilitated many media interviews for the refugees to tell their heart-wrenching stories, experiences, and their sentiments about the Canadian Government’s and people’s initiative to welcome them and provide them a safe haven.The above support was provided to over 450 Syrian-Armenian and non-Armenian newcomers. The Centre also matched refugees with prospective sponsors in Canada.

Levant Settlement Centre says, however, that the work is not done yet. “We have a long road ahead of us to provide, to care, and to look after our brothers and sisters. Our most urgent need is to find employment to the newly-arrived. The refugees are hardworking, highly educated, and proud individuals who do not want to be a burden on anyone. They just need some help at this initial stage. They are eager to become productive members of our society and to contribute to our country in a meaningful way. I am confident that our newcomers will be exemplary Canadians who will make us proud.”

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