April 23rd, 2017

Forum focuses on success of refugees


By Mabell, Dave on February 13, 2017.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

Now that they’ve settled into their new lives in Alberta, how are our Syrian refugees doing?

That was the focus of a community forum held here last week.

The Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies held its fifth and final session here to hear about the experiences of Syrian refugees who call Lethbridge home. The results of the study are expected to shed light on their specific needs, barriers and experiences.

By the end of 2016, the association reports, Albertans had welcomed about 4,920 men, women and children originally from Syria.

“With more Syrian refugees arriving by the day, we need to know how Syrians are settling in – what is going well, what the challenges are, and how the experience can be improved,” says Bo?ana ?ljuka, settlement program manager with Lethbridge Family Services.

The study will pay particular attention to the types of programs and services that are most needed in Alberta to support labour market integration, language training and social connections.

“Although Alberta’s immigration sector has the capacity to meet the current and future needs of refugees, these research findings will help us better facilitate settlement into communities across the province, including outside of the major urban centres,” says Milton Ortega, the association’s executive director.

Their concerns, he reports, include affordable housing, access to English literacy classes, and – like others in Alberta – finding a suitable job.

On the positive side, Ortega praises volunteers in the community as well as immigrant services staff for offering Syrian refugees so much support.

“We see very committed staff,” he says. “They go far beyond the call of duty.”

During 2016, the association reports, Lethbridge had received more than 270 refugees from Syria as well as 37 from other parts of the world.

Across the province, more than 2,080 refugees from other nations arrived in Alberta along with 4,921 from Syria.

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