Willowdale’s Armenian Community Centre sponsoring more than 1,000 Syrian refugees

Willowdale’s Armenian Community Centre sponsoring more than 1,000 Syrian refugees –

By Mike Adler

North York Mirror 

In committing to support refugee families from Syria in Canada, residents of Toronto – and North York’s Armenian community in particular – currently lead the country.

The new federal government is still a long way from meeting its goal to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February, but its Citizenship and Immigration department on Tuesday, Dec. 1, announced where the first 4,584 are going.

More than half of them, 2,602, will land in Toronto, the government’s numbers say.

A remarkable portion of that total is listed as being in process for “Willowdale” – 1,079.

Hratch Aynedjian, who lives in Scarborough and is sponsoring two families at his home, says that’s because the Armenian Community Centre in North York is arranging for 1,000 to come here.

Aynedjian said these refugees are Armenian Christians and most are from Aleppo, one of Syria’s largest cities.

The community centre west of Victoria Park Avenue, one of hundreds of sponsorship agreement holders across the country, “is going all out,” he added Wednesday.

The CIC figures also say 1,326 Syrians will be arriving in mid-town or downtown Toronto, 156 refugees are coming to Scarborough, 18 to Etobicoke and 23 to elsewhere in North York.

It’s not clear where the families – the Liberal government is not accepting single men for security reasons – will actually be staying.

The CIC said the listed communities, such as Willowdale, are where private sponsors have applied to be hosts.

Those sponsors “are committed to supporting the refugees they sponsor on the understanding that the refugee(s) will live in the sponsor’s community and work with them, so that the refugee(s) can become independent,” the department said in response to questions.

“We anticipate more communities will get involved in supporting the settlement and integration of these refugees,” the CIC added in Tuesday’s release.

Though the government records only eight refugee admissions into Toronto since Nov. 4 – all others are listed as still “in process” – Aynedjian said members of his first sponsored family are already here.

So are perhaps 300 others, new faces people see at church and around the community. Besides resolving larger issues such as finding work, they need help with things such as getting health cards and learning how to ride a bus in Toronto, said Aynedjian, who is executive assistant to a Scarborough councillor.

Though he will be responsible for both refugee families for one year after they land, his plan is to help the first adjust and move to another home before the second refugee family arrives, late this year or early in 2016.

“In many ways I feel like I’m saving lives,” Aynedjian said.

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