Refugee Response

How You Can Help

The Refugee Donations Drop-off Centre, which opened in December and closed in early January, collected tens of thousands of pieces of clothing, over 1,500 jackets and hundreds of pieces of furniture and household items for our new Syrian families. Nova Scotians are caring and we thank the more than 5,500 people that visited the Centre for their generosity.

New residents from Syria, private groups and our settlement partners are currently accessing those items.

We will also ensure that all items not required for the refugee effort will go to people in need, with the help of other charitable organizations.

Anyone wishing to offer additional support, like volunteer time, make financial donations or donate grocery gift cards, should contact ISANS or a refugee initiative in their community.

There are also many non-profits that would appreciate donations, including food banks, homeless shelters, and organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Lifeline Syria-Cape Breton and the Canadian Diabetes Association. A list of organizations doing refugee work can be found at ns.211.ca/emergency.

Nova Scotians, like all Canadians, have been moved by the events in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis. The Government of Canada has committed to bringing thousands of refugees to our country and the Province of Nova Scotia has been working closely with its many partners to ensure our province is prepared to welcome these refugees.

Helpful links:

* Please note that provinces are not notified in advance about arrivals of privately-sponsored refugees. That information is given to the sponsoring groups.

The Government of Nova Scotia has committed to providing updates regularly and as new information becomes available. These updates will be posted below.

With more than 1000 Syrian refugees now living in Nova Scotia, the refugee effort is moving into its second phase.

On March 11, we closed the Refugee Donations Centre in Bayer’s Lake -- after four months of operation. As promised, ISANS saved some of the remaining items for the refugee families that are yet to arrive. The rest of the donations went to Nova Scotians in need through more than twenty non-profit organizations.

The Welcoming Centre for Government-Assisted Refugees at Chocolate Lake also shut down on March 15, with all of the province’s government assisted refugees now living in permanent accommodations.

Our sincere thanks to the thousands of Nova Scotians who have offered support, through private sponsorship, donating items to the refugee effort and volunteering time.

We also wish to thank our settlement partners at ISANS and the YMCA for their work on the front-lines. Thanks for going out of your way to welcome newcomers.

The refugee effort isn’t over. The hard work of helping our new families settle in the province continues, with more refugees expected to arrive between now and December. So let’s keep going!

Please also check out this thank you video, featuring Premier McNeil and Minister Diab.



Refugees continue to land in Nova Scotia. To date, 572 Syrian refugees have come to the province, with 451 arriving through government-assisted sponsorship and 121 coming through private and blended sponsorship. Our new Syrian families are living in Halifax, Dartmouth, Timberlea, Yarmouth, Digby, Bridgewater, Antigonish, Petite Riviere, Pictou, Port Hood, Kentville, Wolfville, Shelburne and Marion Bridge. They’re strong, resilient and glad to be here. Our sincere thanks to all those supporting the refugee effort. Let’s keep going.

As of today, 412 refugees have arrived in Nova Scotia. Today also marked the arrival of the first Syrian refugee family to Cape Breton. A celebration of winter for newcomers will be held this weekend in Halifax. ‘Winter By the Sea” will take place Saturday, Jan. 30, 1 – 4 p.m. at the Emera Oval. All are welcome to this free event! For more information, see the flier below.

Refugee arrivals are ongoing in Nova Scotia and the province remains committed to welcoming up to 1,500 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016. As of Thursday, January 21, approximately 304 Syrian refugees have landed in Nova Scotia. Of these 304, 227 are Government Assisted (GARs) and 77 are either privately sponsored (PSRs) or blended refugees (BVORs). The province has been advised by the federal government that a minimum of 550 government assisted refugees will arrive in Nova Scotia by the end of February. Additional refugees are expected to arrive between March and December 2016, including families privately sponsored by groups across Nova Scotia.

Soccer Nova Scotia and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia hosted a group of Syrian refugees for a game of soccer this afternoon in Halifax. Local media were invited to attend and had the opportunity to speak directly with the new Nova Scotians about life in Canada and their love of the game. Soccer Nova Scotia told reporters they were pleased to have the opportunity to help organize games for refugees and that it was clear from watching them play that soccer means a great deal to them. The province has posted a photo album of the soccer game on Facebook. Below are some news articles featuring interviews with the young Nova Scotians:

In less than a month, Nova Scotians filled a 100,000 square foot building with donations for refugees. Between December 12 and January 5, well-over 5,500 Nova Scotians donated tens of thousands of pieces of clothing including over 1,500 jackets, 75 high chairs and strollers, and hundreds of pieces of furniture, household items, linens, toiletries, and school supplies. The response was so overwhelming that the center closed weeks early because enough items had been collected.

Thank you to everyone who donated items, not only at the centre in Halifax, but to groups across Nova Scotia working to settle refugees. Whether it was children bringing in their old bikes and toys, a school donating 2,000 teddy bears, or companies bringing in large supplies of jackets and toothpaste, people went above and beyond to make sure refugees will have what they need to establish a life in Nova Scotia.

The Province of Nova Scotia and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia wish to thank the more than 350 volunteers who worked to accept and organize the donations at the centre. The volunteers were a cross-section of Nova Scotians, and came as individuals or groups of co-workers. Everyone worked at an amazing pace to keep up with the donations as they came in. As the photo above illustrates, it’s been quite a task.

Thank you to 211 for coordinating offers of support for refugees. In seven weeks, 211’s staff logged an amazing 2,819 calls from across the province. Almost half of callers offered material goods, while 35% offered their volunteer support.

We also wish to thank corporate donors whose donations were vital to establishing and operating the centre. Armco Capital and Rank Inc. generously donated the use of their large, centrally-located building in Bayer’s Lake. Thank you to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation for donating a large amount of shelving to help organize the donations, to Kent Building Supplies for donating carts and trollies for our volunteers to move donations around, and to REgroup for donating bins to organize waste. We greatly appreciate Halifax Regional Municipality for plowing and sanding the centre parking lot, Halifax Care and Share for shelving and set-up, and PODS for delivery services. Security cameras were loaned to the centre by the Shearwater Aviation Museum and installed by Maritect Security and Investigations. As well, Tim Hortons on Lakelands Boulevard generously donated food and beverages that helped keep our volunteers going. 

Over the coming months, newly arrived refugees and their sponsors will access the donated items at the centre. We will ensure that any donations not needed by these new Nova Scotians will be shared with other charitable organizations in our province. Welcoming up to 1,500 refugees to our province is a big job, and Nova Scotians have stepped up with their overwhelming generosity and amazing spirit. Thank you.

Due to the overwhelming generosity of Nova Scotians, the Province announced that the Refugee Donations Drop-Off Centre in Halifax will no longer accept donations after Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The donation centre has received 4,000 bags of clothes, 1,500 jackets, 75 high chairs and strollers and hundreds of household items. The 211 service also received more than 2,800 calls offering support. As the need for donations has been met, 211 will no longer log calls or emails offering support for refugees. Any donations that are in excess of the needs of refugees will be shared with other charitable organizations in Nova Scotia. Minister Lena Metlege Diab also met with and welcomed the first 13 government-assisted refugees. The families arrived in Halifax on Dec. 29.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority, the IWK and the Department of Health and Wellness have published a resource guide for health care providers who are supporting recent Syrian immigrants. While developed around Canada’s current response to the Syrian refugee crisis, it will be kept relevant for future refugee situations, regardless of their country of origin. Health care providers who have questions about the resource guide or caring for refugees, can call the Transitional Health Clinic for Refugees (1-844-762-8080), Monday – Friday during regular daytime hours. Additional information is also available on the Nova Scotia Health Authority website.

In the first week of operation, the Refugee Donations Drop-Off Centre saw almost 2,200 people drop off 2,100 bags of clothes, 450 pieces of furniture, and many children’s toys, linens, kitchen items, and dozens of strollers. Donors are asked to consider that the most needed items are now – winter outerwear (jackets, boots, sweaters, mitts, hats), tables and chairs, baby gear, and personal hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, shampoo).

A refugee family from Syria landed at Halifax Stanfield International Airport yesterday. Their host group, St. Benedict Parish Refugee Committee (based in Clayton Park), has a long history of sponsoring refugees. They have welcomed five refugee families to date and plan to keep sponsoring. Our newest residents were greeted by a large crowd of well-wishes, including Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab, Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan, Halifax MP Andy Fillmore and Halifax Airport Vice-President Peter Spurway. Welcome to Nova Scotia! We’re glad to have you.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage announced that the city will be accepting donations for refugees at City Hall. The drop-off centre will accept small items like winter outerwear (hats, mitts, scarves), backpacks and school supplies, toiletries, baby supplies (diapers, baby wipes), and gift cards for groceries and household goods. Volunteers will coordinate transportation of these items to the Refugee Donations Drop-Off Centre in Bayers Lake. Donations will be accepted at Halifax City Hall (1841 Argyle Street) on the following dates:

Thursday, December 17th 8:30am-5pm
Friday, December 18th 8:30am – 5pm
Monday, December 21st 8:30am-5pm

The Refugee Donations Drop-Off Centre, located at 350 Horseshoe Lake Drive, opened today. The response from Nova Scotians was overwhelming. On the first day of operation, over 1,500 Nova Scotians dropped off thousands of items for refugees, including 1,500 bags of clothing, 40 strollers, 200 pieces of furniture, children’s toys, toiletries, and linens. Many committed volunteers greeted donors at the door to help unload the generous donations. The donation centre will be open over the next two months. Hours of operation and a list of needed items can be found to the right of this page.

Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab, joined by Suzanne Ley from Nova Scotia Immigration, Gerry Mills from the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotian, and Dominic Fewer from the Emergency Management Office, provided an update to media in Halifax. Ms. Ley delivered a technical briefing provided an overview of the resettlement programs. As of December 8, there are over 100 groups across Nova Scotia that are in various stages of sponsorship. While our province is not expecting that any refugees arriving on the first two planes will be destined for Nova Scotia, it is anticipated that up to 50 privately sponsored refugees will arrive in December. George Armoyan Jr. joined Minister Diab in announcing a Refugee Donations Drop-Off Centre would be established in Halifax. The centre, housed in a building generously donated by Armco Capital and Rank Inc., will open on Saturday, Dec. 12. Hours of operation and a list of needed items can be found to the right of this page.

1500 refugees, 61 families, 1 province

During an interview this evening, Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab told CBC’s Tom Murphy that Nova Scotia is able to welcome up to 1,500 refugees. This includes 61 groups (identified to date) that will privately sponsor 61 families. The minister explained that her department has been working very closely with its partners, and the private sponsorship groups, in preparation. She says that it’s the obligation of Canada, and Nova Scotia, to accept and assist the most vulnerable of those who have been displaced.

Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab, joined by Suzanne Ley from Nova Scotia Immigration, Gerry Mills from the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, and Barbara Miller Nix from YMCA Greater Halifax-Dartmouth, provided an update to media in Halifax. Minister Diab says that the province is pleased with the federal government’s strong and thorough plan. Officials with Nova Scotia Immigration and its partners will be looking at the details in the coming days and talking with communities about implementation of this project. The minister continues to encourage people who want to offer support to call 211 or email help@ns.211.ca. In the last week, 211 has received over 900 offers of assistance.

211 Nova Scotia issued a news release thanking Nova Scotians for their "amazing wave of generosity" towards refugees. As of noon today, 211 has received over 600 offers of assistance. The organization says that while their staff have been taxed by the high volume of calls, they are honoured to be able to assist. Executive Director Mike Myette thanked callers for their patience with longer than usual wait times and reminded Nova Scotians that offers of assistance can also be made by email at help@ns.211.ca.

Read 211's news release

The Immigration Minister and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) provided an update to media in Halifax about preparations for the arrival of refugees. The province has been working closely with municipalities, community groups, and universities to ensure supports are coordinated and in place when refugees arrive. Communities across Nova Scotia have shown tremendous support and want to help. The 211 phone service is now accepting and cataloguing offers of support, which can include clothing, food, lodging, financial donations, or someone’s time. ISANS has been creating an inventory of available housing in the area and will be having community meetings once it is known how many refugees are coming and where they will be located. The Minister expressed confidence that the federal government will handle screening of refugees in a way that ensures safety for all.

Read the news release about how you can help.