4 April 2016

London to help settle 900 more Syrian refugees

Kate Dubinski has been a reporter with: The London Free Press since 2005. Before that, she worked in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta. Kate has previously covered the education beat and is now a general assignment reporter, with a focus on digital trends. In 2010, she was part of a newsroom team that won a National Newspaper Award

Thursday, February 25, 2016

After absorbing more than 800 Syrian refugees in three months, London is expected to help as many as 900 more from the war-torn country before the end of the year, The Free Press has learned.

By the end of 2016, London will get between 800 and 900 more Syrian refugees — some of them privately sponsored — but they’ll come at a much slower pace, said Greg Nash, who runs the London Intercommunity Health Centre’s programs for children, youth and families.

Nash has been co-ordinating the centre’s Syrian refugee health services.

“What’s struck me is how grateful and how welcomed the Syrian refugees are feeling,” Nash said. “The goodwill in our community, it’s just been extraordinary.”

The centre’s doctors, nurse practitioners and other health-care providers from St. Joseph’s Health Care and the Thames Valley family health team have been running a daily urgent care clinic at the CCLC, where they deal with everything from fever and respiratory infections to strep throat, ear infections and chicken pox.

They’re also referring refugees to doctors or other health care providers. Some have chronic diseases like diabetes and others were diagnosed with cancer in Syria but have not been treated for awhile.

“We are also seeing trauma, sexual assault, rape and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Nash said. “Some of these people haven’t seen a doctor in months or years. We’re seeing people who have been dislocated for quite some time. They were, at one point, economically advantaged with some social status but recently have been living in other cities, in (refugee) camps or squatting.”

The health centre, working with the Middlesex-London Health Unit, has been placing the Syrian refugees with family doctors.

Receiving so many government-assisted refugees all at once has given the community and agencies a chance to co-ordinate efforts and make sure the refugees’ needs are met, Lokko said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to think of the longer-term process to really effectively address newcomers, no matter where they’re from. It’s allowed us to put stronger systems in place,” she said.

As the Syrians settle in London and more arrive, it’s important they be supported, Nash said.

That includes helping them find work.

“There will be 500 to 600 men looking for employment. One of the ways for them to be successful is to get a job, to feel valued and to be valued,” Nash said. “We have to think about how we’re going to provide meaningful, gainful employment to this community.”