NEWS
11/12/2015 11:18 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Surrey braces for influx of Syrian refugees

An estimated 2,700 Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in B.C. by the end of the year and it's likely more of them will settle in Surrey than any other municipality in the province.

"The city has a history of welcoming refugees and my understanding is nearly 30 percent of refugees that come to British Columbia end up settling in Surrey," says Councillor Judy Villeneuve.

That means roughly 800 Syrians could end up making Surrey their home, if past trends are any indication.

"There's a reason for that. The housing in Surrey is less expensive than Vancouver, Richmond or Burnaby," says Villeneuve.

The new federal government is expected to reveal details of its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, after today's cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

But organizations that help immigrants and refugees integrate into the community, such as Surrey-based Umoja Compassion Society, say their budgets are already stretched thin.

Founder Amos Kambere says he has seen refugees end up on the streets of Surrey before, and more funding from the federal government is needed to support the new wave of refugees from Syria.

"If the government does not come to us and ask what we need, and they just provide us with refugees, it is going to be tough," Kambere says.

Outreach workers in homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the Whalley area say they have seen an increase in refugees and immigrants in recent years.

The Surrey Food Bank Society has noticed a similar trend and says its clients speak 37 different languages.

Refugee success stories

Moving to Canada with no money, no contacts and only a slight grasp of English is a daunting task, but recent immigrant Safari Kabumbe proves it can be done.

Kabumbe fled the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly a decade ago.

He lived in Uganda for several years before Canada accepted him as a refugee in 2013.

It wasn't easy, but he started his own tailoring business in Surrey.

"It was my dream to do it, my business," he says.

"A new country and I didn't know anyone, it was hard. I started from zero and I didn't have money to buy the machines or the materials, but now business is good."

Kabumbe's father was also a tailor and he says his nine-year-old daughter is interested in following in their footsteps.