Fifty Syrian refugees are preparing to spend New Year's Day giving blood to "show their appreciation" for their new country, Canada.

The members of the Syrian Refugee Support Group of Calgary committed themselves to fill appointments and collect 50 donations to start 2018. The refugees said it was their aim to "show appreciation and devotion to Canada and the Canadian people" and Canadian Blood Services is opening its Eau Claire Market clinic on 1 January so they can do so.

Sam Nammoura, spokesman for the group, told the Calgary Herald: "In Syria, the donation of blood is considered the highest form of loyalty to the community. It's very symbolic.

"Here, there is a huge hunger among refugees to say thank you in some way for everything that has been done for them. To express their loyalty to this nation."

Nammoura was born in Damascus, and moved to Canada 20 years ago. He committed the rest of his life to volunteering to help other refugees.

Explaining why they wanted to do the blood drive, with hundreds of refugees reportedly keen to take part sooner or later, he added: "It's a way to affirm, to show how thankful they are about how they've been treated by Canadians.

"So many of them feel that at a time when the entire world turned their back on them, the only country that stood for them and helped them was Canada. This is like a dream land for them."

The refugees' offering of their time and blood donations comes at an important time as Canada faces an urgent nationwide need for donors, especially over the Christmas and New Year period due to travel, family activities and changes in routines.

Earlier this month, Canadian Blood Services released an appeal for donors to urgently fill 35,000 appointments by 6 January, and there has been a sharp increase in donations since - but not enough. There is a particular need for O-negative blood.

Rick Prinzen, Canadian Blood Services' chief supply chain officer, said: "The holiday period always presents challenges for us as we work to ensure we have enough blood and blood products to meet patients' needs.

"We know that Canadians are busy with travel and activities over the holidays, and we hope that they will make time to save a life and give blood. Canadian patients' lives depend on them."