Quebec welcomes Syrian refugees
Published Tuesday, January 20, 2015 9:36PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 21, 2015 11:45AM EST
In an effort to help ease the pain for hundreds of Syrians fleeing war, Quebec is planning to significantly increase the number of refugees it welcomes to the province this year.
Called the worst humanitarian crisis in decades by the United Nations, almost 200,000 Syrians have died and an estimated 9 million people have been displaced due to a violent civil war.
Currently, a dozen countries are accepting Syrian refugees. Among them is Canada – and Quebec is reaching out to help.
“I'm so happy because I'm in a safe place. Quebec saved me from war from kidnap, from killing, from a lot of bad things,” said Mareen Grig, a refugee claimant who came to Montreal last December with her sister and mother.
Quebec welcomed 484 Syrian refugees like Grig in 2014.
Canada's new commitment is 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years; Quebec will take in almost one quarter of those.
Most refugees are assisted by religious groups, aid organizations, or family, who help them find a new home in the province.
Quebec’s immigration ministry took a moment Tuesday to thank the numerous groups who have opened their arms to the crestfallen, calling them indispensable.
“It's allowed us to bring in a lot more Syrian refugees than we could have otherwise,” said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil.
One such group is the Hay Doun Family Support Services, an Armenian community centre in Outremont that took in 300 people.
“They seem very, very tired, extremely affected by what's happening. Some come crying,” said Mayiri Tavlian, president of the community group. “We help them find apartments, rent them, furnish them, register them to the French courses.”
The need for groups outside Syria to extend their assistance is paramount, said Denise Otis, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Canada.
“It’s unheard of, unseen before and so it's definitely a situation where international solidarity is called for,” she said.
For Syrians now living in the safety of Quebec, it’s a relief.
“(My mother) was afraid because we are girls, and she wants to make us safe, keep us safe always… We are now in French class, to learn French and start a new life,” said Grig.
Still, she worries about others who were not so lucky.
“I'm so afraid for my friends in Syria. Any time, jihadi can come and kill my friends and my family in Syria, so I'm so afraid about that,” she said.