Syrian refugees arrive aboard a dinghy after crossing from Turkey

B.C. offers hotline, $1M fund to help Syrian refugees

Premier Christy Clark calls on B.C. residents to sponsor a refugee, pledges to work with volunteers

The B.C. government has added $1 million to its budget for helping refugees settle in the province, and has opened a toll-free information line for those who want to sponsor people fleeing violence in Syria.

Premier Christy Clark announced the funding in Vancouver Tuesday, along with a toll-free information number for community groups and private sponsors at 1-877-952-6914.

Clark said the province currently spends about $4 million a year to support the federal program that settles immigrants in B.C. The extra funds will be reserved for assistance to Syrian refugees, she said.

“It is our belief that it’s just not good enough to totally open our doors,” Clark said. “We have to make sure that when refugees get here, we’re doing everything that we can to help them realize the Canadian dream and find their way as seamlessly as possible in to British Columbia.”

The one-time investment will be used for trauma counselling, help for for groups of citizens to navigate the refugee sponsorship process, foreign credential recognition and community and employer supports including matching training funds for those committed to hiring a Syrian refugee.

Clark said all the federal parties have indicated they want to increase refugee intake in response to the Syrian civil war, and B.C. has supported that position for several years. Last year about 36,000 immigrants arrived in B.C., and about 1,500 were refugees.

Our job isn’t to decide who’s coming in when,” Clark said. “That’s their job. Our job is to make sure we’re ready.”