MAP: Need for affordable housing brought 43 per cent of B.C.’s Syrian refugees to Surrey, says report

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees settled in Surrey from Nov. 4, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016

SURREY — The need for larger, cheaper housing attracted nearly half of the province’s government-assisted Syrian refugees to Surrey, according to a new report.

Of the government-sponsored Syrian refugees that landed in B.C. from Nov. 4, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016, 1,082 (or 43 per cent) of them settled in Surrey, according to a new report from Immigrant Service Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC).

The entire Lower Mainland saw 1,824 settle in the same timeframe including 191 in Vancouver, 197 in Burnaby and New Westminster combined, 132 in Coquitlam, 105 in the Langleys and 105 in Delta.

The highest settlement concentrations in the region were found in Surrey’s Whalley, Newton and Guildford neighbourhoods, though some smaller concentrations were established in City Centre and Fleetwood.

“The search for affordable housing is evident in the proportion of Syrian GARs (government assisted refugees) in outlying suburbs including Surrey and Tri-Cities as well as non-traditional resettlement destinations in Langley, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and beyond,” notes the report, titled Syrian Refugee Settlement Patterns in Metro Vancouver: Changing Patterns and New Influences.

See also: Surrey Food Bank struggles to serve Syrian refugees

ISSfBC says that almost 75 per cent of the Syrian GARs they helped found housing in these areas largely as a result of needing larger rental units coupled with limited financial means for their large families.

The report also found that “the vast majority of Syrian GAR families who arrived expressed an interest in living in concentrated areas of similar ethnic backgrounds and languages, a finding similar to other refugee groups during their initial settlement process.

“We were fortunate to work with some rental property management companies to place several families together within certain building complexes in Surrey,” it adds.

Meanwhile, the Surrey Board of Trade is lobbying for more refugee support.

SBoT won the support of business organizations across the province for a focus on refugees at this past weekend’s BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Conference, held May 25 to 27 in Victoria.

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to extend federal income suport for refugees to three years, and to enhance education and career planning for refugees.

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade said businesses are facing a skills shortage in many industries.

“We want to give our refugees the best supports possible. Only about 10 per cent of refugees find employment in their first year in Canada. The concern is the need for B.C. to support families that the Federal government has accepted until they are sufficiently employable through English and other training.”

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com