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.

The Victoria Standard - - Law / Politics - CAROLYN BAR­BER

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.

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