Afghan refugee children who arrived in Waterloo region, Ont. Months ago, are spending their days in hotel rather than classroom as public school board says students need an address permanent to register.
Naseeb Abdul Habib, 32, says he has been in contact with relatives in Toronto, also refugees from Afghanistan, whose children have been given plans and activities.
Until recently Abdul Habib stayed in a Waterloo motel with many other refugee families (he recently moved into an apartment). While his own children are in Afghanistan, he worries that there does not appear to be a plan to educate the children of the newcomers.
âThe children are always in the bedrooms,â he said.
The problem is compounded by what new arrivals say are insufficient needs pending placement, a situation one local settlement organization attributes to the chaotic nature of the evacuation from Afghanistan.
Lynne Griffiths-Fulton, interim CEO of Reception House, a Kitchener-based organization that receives federal funding to help refugees resettle in Canada, said school enrollment is a “long-standing systemic issue. “.
The Waterloo Region District School Board generally requires a permanent address to enroll a student. The address determines the school that the child can attend.
The board said it was aware of the problem and its effect on newcomers.
In an emailed statement, the council said it was trying to help students start school as quickly as possible while waiting for permanent housing.
âWe look forward to joining the next working group that is being formed to collaboratively address this issueâ¦ and once again to be part of a great initiative to welcome newcomers to our WRDSB communityâ a spokesperson said in an email.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says a lack of address isn’t ideal, but it can work with families on a case-by-case basis.
Food allowance too low, depending on the family
Abdul Habib said refugee families are also living on food allowances that do not go far enough. He said he was gone for a while to eat only bread and yogurt to save money – something that is acceptable as a single person, but that would be untenable for families.
Mohammad Aslam Sherzai, 37, agrees. He and his family still stay at a Waterloo motel, where his low food budget is compounded by a lack of kitchen facilities.
And while the motel has a clothing donation room, Sherzai said it was difficult to find clothes in her size. He still doesn’t have winter boots.
âNow it’s getting colder by the day,â said Sherzai, a former Canadian Army interpreter.
“Lots of challenges” related to the speed of resettlement
Griffiths-Fulton acknowledged that there had been “a lot of challenges” with the settlement process.
Part of the problem, she said, is that people were airlifted out of Afghanistan so quickly that there was little time to plan for their arrival. Some people have arrived in Canada without having been treated for permanent residence.
âIn the beginning, we were trying to find hotels where we could accommodate people,â she said.
It also meant that the refugees found themselves spread across multiple hotels – instead of all being in one place, as was the case when the Syrian refugees arrived – and staying longer in hotels that have no facilities. kitchenette or kitchen.
The fact that families stay in different hotels also means that the reception house staff are spread across multiple sites, she said.
Morning Edition – KW4:03The Reception Center prepares to welcome Afghan refugees
As for the establishment allowance, Griffiths-Fulton said it is set by the federal government.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) did not respond to questions from CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on the amount of the allowance.
Instead, a spokesperson acknowledged that while Canada has a strong settlement program, the first few weeks in the country can be a challenge.
“While IRCC and settlement service provider organizations work tirelessly to support refugees, quarantine requirements and limited housing availability pose challenges to this work and sometimes limit the services that can be offered,” said the spokesperson.
Searching for a new hotel in progress
The foster home is now in the process of fitting families into one hotel with better long-term amenities, Griffiths-Fulton said.
They are also “working on the winter boot situation” and hiring more staff, as more are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, Griffiths-Fulton said.
She said the foster home needs landlords to provide affordable rentals – and the organization is looking for doctors willing to take on new families.
The Reception House is currently working with 200 Afghan refugees, just over half of whom have found permanent accommodation so far.
As for Abdul Habib, he said he was so frustrated with his experience in Canada that he was considering returning to Afghanistan.
Sherzai, meanwhile, plans to move to Oshawa next month, but fears the outcome. He is not yet sure if he will have a social worker to help him settle in the new town and overcome the bureaucratic hurdles that come with relocation.
âI don’t know for the future what will happen with us,â he said.