Addressing settlement needs for refugees in Surrey – research project

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Image: Surrey Social Innovation Summit panel discussion.

About 200 local and national experts gathered at Surrey’s inaugural Social Innovation Summit – discussing creative thinking and social innovation to tackle urban issues.

A key topic of discussion at the summit: A look at the settlement needs for refugees coming to Surrey.

Mohamed Muktar Mussa, 25, a community research assistant at Simon Fraser University was welcomed as a panelist where he shared his story.

Mussa lived in a refugee camp in Eritrea after his family fled from a civil war in Somalia. After moving to Canada in 2010 he found it difficult to continue his studies, which he was unable to attend at the refugee camp.

“When you’re a refugee it’s very hard to study … I was [working] with the family because my dad left us when I was [between] 13 [to] 14 years old, so in the refugee camp I didn’t study … I was working to survive.”

Mussa first moved to Surrey, but decided to move and work in Edmonton, Alberta, for two and a half years – he was unable to finish high school because he was over 18. He later retuned to Surrey and entered the Invergarry Adult Education Centre.

Mussa says he feels he would be in a better position today had he been guided into an education program right after moving to Canada.

He decided to join Our Community, Our Voice, a community-based research project running out of the Simon Fraser University campus, which addresses settlement needs for refugees in Surrey.

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Image: Surrey Social Innovation Summit panel discussion. Mohamed Mussa, second left; Stephen Dooley, middle.

“The city of Surrey is committed to building a refugee settlement plan and I think it’s really timely with what’s going on with the Syrian refugees,” explains Stephen Dooley, executive director of Simon Fraser University Surrey.

He says refugees are a diverse group of people who are bringing their own skill sets, “so we have to create opportunities for them to build on their own strengths. As they go and learn their own strengths they’re going to help all of us.”

The federal government announced Tuesday about 25,000 refugees are expected to be resettled in Canada by the end of February. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had initially promised to resettle all the refugees by the end of 2015.

“The local agencies that support new refugees need to be further supported to make sure that they’re ready … most agencies are already pretty stretched from waiting lists,” says Dooley.

Dooley adds in a statement that SFU’s Surrey campus will continue to look into the settlement needs of recent refugees to Surrey through the new SFU Innovative strategy and community based research programs.

Blake Sebastian entered the Film and Television industry at the age of 17. Now in his mid-twenties, he has been involved in radio, lifestyle/reality TV shows and factual docu-series. Blake has been involved in over a dozen different shows and holds a two-year diploma in Broadcast Journalism from BCIT.