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United Way launches appeal in British Columbia to assist Syrian refugees

VANCOUVER — A B.C. branch of the United Way is launching a fundraising appeal to raise $500,000 to help as many as 3,000 Syrian refugees it says are expected to arrive in the Lower Mainland in the coming weeks.

United Way of the Lower Mainland says 40 per cent of the new arrivals will be children under 18 and will require settlement and community integration support as they adjust to life in Canada.

The refugees destined for British Columbia are among about 25,000 displaced Syrians expected to settle in Canada.

The federal government had planned to accept them all by the end of the year, but the resettlement process will now be split in two, with 10,000 to arrive by Dec. 31 and the remainder by the end of February.

Specific details of how that will be accomplished remain unclear, with federal officials unable to say when mass arrivals of refugees will begin or where they'll go after landing in Toronto or Montreal.

The first group will be made up largely of privately sponsored refugees, whose files, in many cases, have been in the works for months as churches and other community groups moved to assist some of the most vulnerable people fleeing the Syrian civil war.

"We join all British Columbians in welcoming Syrian children and families to the place we are so proud to call home," said Michael McKnight, the president and CEO of United Way of the Lower Mainland.

"Together, we can help them begin the next chapter of their lives in Canada, become accustomed to a new language and culture, and ensure the most vulnerable among them, the children, get the best start possible."

The Canadian Press

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