More delays for Syrian family
Thought to be arriving this month, the Government of Canada is now saying their approval could be another year and a half away.
Two years is a long time to wait for a place to call home. For the Esmaeels, the Syrian refugee family expected in Baddeck this month, the wait just got longer.
On May 25, The Standard reported the Syria-to-baddeck Committee’s application to sponsor a Syrian refugee family had been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and forwarded to the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan. The Esmaeels only needed to undergo security checks and medical screenings to receive their Canadian Permanent Residency cards.
In early September, the Committee requested a timeline update from IRCC, only to be told the arrival could take another 19 months.
At the moment, the Esmaeels live in dire straits in a makeshift town outside of Irbid, Jordan, located north of the capital city of Amman. They have few basic resources and the children (2 boys, ages 3 and 12, and two girls, ages 7 and 13) have not attended school for three years.
“Our main concern is that our family is not going to be able to sustain more time in Jordan. They may end up returning to Syria. If that happens, the application is null and void and we're back to square one,” said Syria-to-baddeck Committee spokesperson Jennifer Macdonald in a Sept. 11 phone interview.
The Committee acknowledges the time and energy volunteers have invested over the last two years and wants to ensure transparency about the process. They will hold a public meeting in November to bring the community up to date and solicit feedback from people about what steps should be taken next.
“We're sitting with $40000 of the community's money in the bank. Also, do we want to go down this road again? As a committee, we are feeling like we've been spinning our wheels. It’s possible we’ll be spinning our wheels for another two, three, four years while this all happens,” said Macdonald. “Just to put it in perspective, I’ve had two kids since we started this process.”
The Committee jumped into action in November 2015 with solid community support. They identified a family they felt would be a good match for Baddeck, raised funds and formed the required health, education, employment and community engagement sub-committees needed to help the family arrive and settle in.
The Esmaeels have extended family in Halifax through whom Macdonald can keep in touch with them. She was pleased to learn the Esmaeels still want to come to Canada, but understands if the wait becomes too long.
“As a committee, I feel like saying to them they should be looking at other options, like trying to get to Germany. Maybe there are other options that they're closing their eyes to because they're holding out hope for Canada.”
In the meantime, an immigration lawyer is volunteering to review the sponsorship application. The Committee has requested an inperson meeting with the Minister of Immigration and encourages the community to voice concerns about the delay with MP Mark Eyking’s office.
Syria-to-baddeck spokesperson Jennifer Macdonald says it may be time for their sponsored family to consider applying for refuge in other countries, like Germany, if Canada keeps delaying the approval of their application.