By Roula El-Rifai
Welcoming over 30,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the past year is a reflection of the shared values and generous spirit of Canadians and communities, businesses and governments across this country.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reinforced the country's commitment at the UN General Assembly when he announced that the Government of Canada will increase humanitarian assistance by 10 per cent this fiscal year. In addition, the prime minister announced more than $64.5 million in new multi-year funding to support people affected by humanitarian crises around the globe.
Now that Syrian newcomers have arrived safely in Canada, they can start building their new lives. As the focus shifts from managing the large number of arrivals to integrating families, particularly youth, we see a critical need for more collaboration, research, and knowledge sharing of best practices in Canada and around the world. Delivering real opportunities for refugee success requires a solid understanding of the obstacles refugees face and the best way to address those challenges.
More than half of the newly-arrived Syrian families in Canada are composed of five to eight members, and 56 per cent of arrivals have been children 14 years old or younger. From what we know already, the profile of these newcomers indicates that they could face challenges finding jobs and housing, accessing education, and integrating socially.
More knowledge is required to address issues such as employment and skills development, women's isolation at home, and youth social alienation. Above all, researchers in Canada are saying that we need a longitudinal study to link education and health data to provincial and federal data, as well as a more coordinated approach to research to measure and track the needs and progress of these newcomers.
Societies benefit from welcoming refugees as strong contributors to the growth and strength of communities.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has long supported research on refugee and immigration issues. In our formal and informal consultations with researchers, policymakers, practitioners and members of the diplomatic community, it has become clear that meeting refugee needs requires international collaboration, a rapid response approach and local community engagement.
IDRC is assessing how it can contribute to global efforts and support local capacity to manage the refugee crisis in Lebanon and Jordan: where Syrian arrivals have increased the population by 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. These and other host countries in the Middle East need innovative ways of providing refugees with basic services, improving conditions in camps and crowded homes, giving refugees a voice and a role in their own development and jumpstarting economic growth. The aim is to partner with other donors to support programming that brings citizens and Syrian refugees together to develop their communities.
IDRC is already supporting a project to improve the accessibility and quality of learning for refugee and host community children in and outside the classroom using digital learning innovations. Designed to be flexible and easy to deploy, these digital education tools and resources will be developed and tested initially in 25 schools in Lebanon and Jordan.
Societies benefit from welcoming refugees as strong contributors to the growth and strength of communities. A collaborative approach that positions evidence as the cornerstone will help Canada and the international community move beyond tackling a crisis towards sharing the responsibility of upholding human dignity.
Roula El-Rifai is Senior Program Specialist at the International Development Research Centre. She is an expert on the Palestinian refugee issue, the Middle East peace process, and reform processes in the Arab world.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CCIC or its members.
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A kitchen inside a tent.
Old vegetables sit outside a shop in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Rania prepares a meal for her family in their tent in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Rania cooks on the makeshift stove.
Syrian refugee children open their fridge inside their tent in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq. Their family has not received food donation for almost two months.
Syrian refugee children walk in mud from the heavy rain at a refugee camp in the town of Hosh Hareem, in the Bekaa valley, east Lebanon.
Syrian refugee Mohammed Askar, 39, touches the grave of his daughter Jawahir, 1, who died after suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Mervat, 31, holds her 9-month-old daughter Shurouk inside their tent camp for Syrian refugees camp in Kab Elias.
An aid worker measures the upper arm circumference of 9-month-old Shurouk as her mother Mervat, 31, holds her.
A resident of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk weeps as she waits to receive humanitarian aid from UNRWA in Damascus, Syria.
Hamdia Yusuf, a Syrian refugee makes a pot of chickpeas inside her family tent in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq. Yusuf and another seven members of her family will be eating from this dish.
Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq.
Fauzia Ahmad holds her son inside their tent in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq. Ahmad's family has not received food donation in several months.
Syrian refugee teacher Fatima Mohammed speaks during an interview inside a tent that has been turned into a makeshift school, at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.
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