Several Syrian families welcomed to P.E.I. over last few weeks

Jim Day
Published on January 5, 2016

The first two families of government-sponsored Syrian refugees arrived at the Charlottetown airport Monday. They were welcomed by P.E.I. Immigration Minister Richard Brown.

©Submitted photo.

Nearly 40 government-sponsored Syrian refugees have arrived in P.E.I. over the past several days.

Craig Mackie, executive director of the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada, says seven families with 38 people landed in the province between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.

Fourteen privately sponsored Syrian refugees have arrived since the end of November.

More are likely to arrive this week.

P.E.I. expected to welcome 100 Syrian refugees before the end of 2015 and another 150 through January and February, but those targets have been moved back as a result of federal delays.

Mackie says the process of settling the Syrians in Prince Edward Island has been going smoothly.

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They are met at the airport, given a small allowance to buy food, and checked into temporary accommodations.

“We give them time to rest, sleep, get caught up, get on the time zone,’’ says Mackie.

A needs assessment is done.

Bank accounts are set up and groceries are purchased.

The newcomers association is currently working to help get the recently arrived Syrian children placed in school.

“It’s just giving them Canadian life skills training - answering their questions,’’ adds Mackie.

He says for the most part the families are relatively large, middle class and well educated.

Mackie is keen to have some of the Syrian refugees tell their stories to the media so Islanders can feel a closer connection.

Islanders have been quite welcoming.

More than 300 have signed up to volunteer with the newcomers association.

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A centre set up to accept donations of outdoor clothing and furniture had to stop taking donations due to the overwhelming response.

He says the refugees are grateful to escape strife in a peaceful place like Prince Edward Island.

“They know it’s safe and they are happy to be in a place that they can now call home,’’ he says.