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Syrian refugee family will come to Belleville before the new year

By Tyler Renaud  [1]

BELLEVILLE – The hard work of Bridge Street United Church [2] and a group of local residents to bring a Syrian family to Belleville is about to pay off.

Ian Sutherland of the sponsorship group says the application to sponsor a refugee family was accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada [3] in only 19 days.

The family consists of a 39-year-old father, a 35-year-old mother and three boys aged 13, 11 and 4. One of the children is very ill.

Sutherland said that refugee families usually arrive in Canada one or two months after approval, and so estimated that this family’s arrival here will be in late November or early December.

“However, we will not know for sure until we receive a phone call no more than 48 hours ahead of their arrival” in Belleville, he said.

When the family first arrives in Canada, they will stay in a reception house for a few days.

“The staff (at the reception house) will accompany them with interpreters to Service Canada and Service Ontario for the interim federal health plan, (social-insurance) card, Canadian photo ID, Ontario Health Card, Child Tax Benefit application, assistance with banking applications and establishing a contract between the family and the federal government with respect to loan repayment,” Sutherland said.

The family will be loaned money to cover airfare and deposits on first and last month’s rent, phone, utilities, water, etc. The loans will probably total $7,500 to $10,000, according to Sutherland.

“I guess it’s important to recognize that we are not signatories to that contract – the sponsorship group is not on the hook for any of that repayment,” he said. “Now, that doesn’t mean it would be inappropriate for us to assist them in paying at whatever time they have to begin to repay.”

The family will not have to repay all expenses incurred because they are sponsored, said Orlando Ferro, the executive director of Quinte Immigration Services [4], who has been working with the Bridge Street United group.

“Sponsorship is a support. It’s a local community support group for them upon arrival,” Ferro said. “The group that is sponsoring them – they will be responsible financially for them for a couple of years until they are integrated and then can take over all their own civil capacities within the community.”

The church has been told that the cost of sponsoring the family during the integration years will be roughly $30,000 a year.

“The resources to fund these families come from mostly charitable donations … Churches are being very great” about trying to get refugees here, Ferro said.

Sutherland says the sponsorship group and the church will work with the family as they become acclimatized in Canada.

“The main idea is to assist the family to live within the budget that they have, such that if after the two years they are unable to find a job to support themselves, or they end up with a minimum wage, the shock of being off government support will not send them into depression,” Sutherland said.

Once the family is in Belleville, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Quinte Immigration Services will ensure they receive the skills they need to thrive in Canadian society.

“As soon as the family arrives they will need to be registered in an (English as a second language) program,” said Ferro. “As soon as they come to our office for our intake and registration, we will make sure that they have a language assessment … Based on that they will be registered in English classes of different levels, according to the assessment.”

Once communication skills are established, training the family members to support themselves is the next step.

“They will also be provided, in partnership with Loyalist College, employment services from our offices to start being prepared to enter into the labour market,” said Ferro. “This may be a very important item in a year or year and a half, when reality kicks in and the funding is over and at that point in time as part of the integration they should be prepared to enter the labour market.”

Quinte Immigration Services has been notified that more families will be coming to the area, Ferro said.

“I guess it’s the Canadian spirit of welcoming. There was an outstanding response from the Quinte region, as apparently nine families will be brought to the region,” he said.

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