Refugees motivated but needs higher than thought: report

Posted by admin on Feb 4th, 2016

By Joanna Frketich
Syrian refugees have higher needs than originally expected, states a federal government report.

More than half of those applying to be government assisted are children.

About three-quarters speak no English or French.

The refugees are resourceful and highly motivated to work to the point that they’ve risked arrest in Jordan.

But only the men have experience and mostly in “low-skilled” jobs.

“Many applicants have little or no knowledge of Canada and no family contacts in Canada,” states a January addendum to the Syrian Population Profile by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Overall, the needs of this population are higher than originally expected.”

Having a high volume of refugees arriving in such a compressed period is new to government and settlement organizations in Canada.

The federal government has committed to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by February.

In Hamilton alone, more than 100 refugees have arrived each week with one-third coming between Jan. 20 and 26.

So far, 530 Syrian refugees are calling the city home as of Jan. 26 while 10 have settled in Burlington.

Of those, 489 are government assisted in Hamilton and five in Burlington.

Nationwide, 56 per cent of government-assisted refugee applicants are children age 14 and under. Up to 88 per cent of them speak no English or French.

About 40 per cent of these children have no education at all. Those who have gone to school are at least one to two grades behind their age.

“The school boards are facing a large sudden influx,” said Esther Geva, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. “We deal with these issues all the time of people coming from different places…We have quite a bit of knowledge; what we don’t have is enough resources.”

Education is also a challenge for adults with 90 to 95 per cent not finishing high school in the cases processed in Amman, Jordan. Mostly, they worked as taxi and truck drivers, construction workers, cooks, farmers or general labourers.

“Those refugees may not work legally in Jordan, a large number do so at risk of arrest, a sign of their resourcefulness and motivation to provide for their families, as well as their desperation,” states the report. “Generally, such work is irregular and differs from the refugees’ occupations in Syria.”

Government-assisted refugees tend to have large families with 53 per cent listing five to eight people on the application with some having 10 to 14.

“We have to acknowledge we don’t know enough about Syria,” said Geva. “The people will be coming from different cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds…They are not all the same.”

Overall, the refugees are in good health with less than 2 per cent needing to be further assessed upon arrival. Of those, only 10 per cent required medical treatment and most were children with cold and flu symptoms.

About one in 10 government-assisted refugees have chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.

A group of internal medicine residents at McMaster have started a fundraiser for which they’re donating the $116 they make while on call for 24 hours to Refuge: Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health. The public can make donations at

Wesley Urban Ministries is also taking donations at

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