Refugee study seeks Calgary newcomers to improve experience for people fleeing war-torn countries

Researcher Yahya El-Yahib says refugees from war-torn countries like Syria can often be traumatized and need different treatment and supports than other categories of refugee. He wants to find out how their needs are being met from the moment they land in Canada through to integrating into Canadian communities. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Researchers at the University of Calgary want to interview refugees who came to the city to escape war and conflict in their home countries.

The team is working on a study that could help shape future policy by identifying some of the many challenges newcomers face, along with looking closer at the supports and agencies available to newcomers and how they can be better tailored to help people coming to Canada from post-conflict countries.

The study is a collaboration with the University of Montreal and Toronto’s Ryerson University, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

“Right now we are looking for refugees and refugee families from war-torn countries and we’re also looking to interview and have focus groups with service providers in the settlement sectors to look at how we can change the story,” said Yahya El-Lahib, an assistant professor in the faculty of social work.



The first thing to notice when arriving in Damascus is all the street life going on; young couples holding hands in the streets, shops open everywhere, shawarma stalls next to tea and coffee stalls and, in general, the streets are full of people like in any other country. There are no signs of war going on except the few relaxed soldiers sitting on a street corner.

It´s very easy to forget that you’re in a country that ravaged with war when visiting Damascus but then you suddenly hear rocket hitting the terrorist-infested Jobar district only two km away in a straight line from where I’m staying and enjoying life. Between 10 – 30 rockets I could hear a day.

If you get tired of walking around the streets, just walk into an art gallery to have a look at modern art in Syria, relax in a local Hooka cafe while looking at bustling street life or listen to a local storyteller. Everything here is just like it was before 2011.

But like before 2011, so is the Old Town of Damascus the place you to stay to explore. The only real reason to head into to modern part of Damascus is if you need to do some proper shopping at a western style shopping mall or to visit a supermarket just as well stocked as any supermarket back in Europe or America. Everything is available here.

Overall, Damascus is so completely opposite of what the media has been telling us for the last 7 years. So I wonder if the journalists have actually ever been here themselves.

Christian churches are located door to door to Mosques. Both are filled with people. Even the Jewish Synagogue in the Old City of Damascus is still open. You see Christian weddings around the city and Priests walking around in public.

In the afternoon, the bars and pubs are filled with locals that enjoy a few beers and drinks together with watching European football on big screens. And all of them are welcoming to you as a tourist. I went out drinking with the locals to 2 am before walking back to my hotel on my own.

I was lucky enough to walk around and explore Damascus for 3 full days. Never did I experience any hostile or unfriendly people.
Everyone was so happy to see that tourists are back in town.

Visiting Damascus in 2017 as a tourist feels just like being home in Norway or walking around Barcelona or any big western city. Damascus is very safe and ready to welcome tourists back.





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