This 2015 photo was one of the last taken of Hanadi Albarazanji with her entire family: husband, Emad; daughters Yaman and Juman; and son, Kenan. (Contributed photo)

This 2015 photo was one of the last taken of Hanadi Albarazanji with her entire family: husband, Emad; daughters Yaman and Juman; and son, Kenan. (Contributed photo)

Family split between White Rock, Syria highlights ‘crack’ in refugee reunification process

‘No light in sight’ as Hanadi Albarazanji waits to reunite with her two adult children

All Hanadi Albarazanji wants is to reunite her family.

The White Rock resident last saw two of her three children in person five years ago, just before she fled war-torn Syria with her youngest daughter, Juman, to start a new life in Canada.

READ MORE: Syrian refugees embrace new ‘mother country’

READ MORE: Syria marks 7 years of war; thousands leave besieged enclave

The family didn’t have enough money for everyone to leave together, and as they were already adults, the older siblings – son Kenan, now 27, and daughter Yaman, 24 – also didn’t qualify as dependents under the same immigration application, she said.

But arriving here, Albarazanji, who was sponsored by her aunt, had hoped their steps to a fresh start would be similar to her own: a sponsor would be found and the process of relocating would unfold.

However, while her husband Emad was able to join her and their daughter in Canada, “dramatic” changes – including the closure of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan borders to Syrians, and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) no longer automatically issuing refugee status to Syrians if they are able to leave – not to mention pandemic-related delays – have left Albarazanji wondering if she’ll ever see her eldest children face-to-face again.

“My kids are essentially stuck in Syria and we have little to no chance of having our family be together in the foreseeable future,” Albarazanji said.

“When I see people talking (about) how much they are sad because the holidays and … Christmas and they can’t be together (because of the pandemic)… I feel like maybe next year you will meet them. But I can’t.

“I’m very scared that I’ll die and I won’t see them.”

Immigration consultant Amr Shehata said Albarazanji’s situation highlights a crack in the “one-year window application” process through which newly landed refugees can reunite with their immediate family members who are not yet in Canada: it only applies to spouses and dependent children.

On top of that, a refugee is defined as someone who has left their home country out of fear and availed themselves of the protection of the Canadian government, Shehata said.

“Which means they cannot go back to their home country while that regime is still there,” he continued. “At the same time, these two members of the family… are in Syria. They fall within that crack of one-year window, into nowhere.”

Kenan and Yaman also cannot be privately sponsored as refugees because they are still in Syria, he said – a problem that is difficult to rectify with borders of the tangent countries closed.

“The only other place is Iraq,” Shehata said. “So it will be… into the fire if you went from Syria to Iraq. Doesn’t really make any sense.”

READ MORE: Canada relocating some troops from Iraq to Kuwait due to safety concerns: Vance

Albarazanji, who was raised in the United Arab Emirates, said she is becoming increasingly distressed by the situation. Since arriving in Canada, she has “joined all the opportunities I had” in an effort to become part of the community, even volunteering with the non-profit MOSAIC organization. It was all “to have a good life with my kids,” she said.

“Now, everything I’ve done, I feel it is worthless. I can’t get my kids here, and they are very good kids. I know they will be a good fit here in Canada.”

Albarazanji worries her humanitarian and compassion application could take “another four or five years, if it works,” and Shehata confirmed there are no guarantees.

“It’s totally discretionary, the officer may accept, may not accept,” he said.

He noted that Canada has created temporary policies in the past to assist immigrants in reuniting with their families, and pointed to government’s Caring for Children Program – which ended in June 2019 – as one example. It created a pathway to permanent residence for women who came from a visa-required country for home-care work, he said.

“A lot of people in the profession knew the stress and the struggle that these ladies had,” Shehata said. “They left their home, they left their kids and they came to Canada to take care of our kids, and after that, there was no clear hope for them.

“But now, there is kind of a policy, a kind of program that allowing even if you didn’t disclose a family member, you can disclose them now and they can still be sponsored.

“There are similar cases where the government was responsive and supportive, let’s put it like that.

“Maybe Hanadi is one example, but I bet there are thousands of these families – a mother that really cannot do anything for their kids.”

If the government did do something similar to the Caring for Children Program, “this would be a new community,” he said.

Stories like Albarazanji’s are heartbreaking, he added.

“She has been waiting for a long time. Most painful part, she doesn’t know for how long she should be waiting, and even if she waited for that time, what would happen next.

“She cannot see a light by the end of the tunnel, as simple as that.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ImmigrationrefugeeSyriawhite rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

North-West Mounted Police barracks at the top of Douglas Street hill, 1885. The man seated at the front was (Colonel Sam Steele. Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 856)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Jan. 21

130 years ago: Kootenay Star, Jan. 24, 1891 An accident occurred at… Continue reading

Liam Harrap, reporter for the Revelstoke Review, gives a sneak peak on what’s making news in Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
A sneak peak at the Jan. 21 news paper

Pick up your copy on news stands today

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Liam Harrap, reporter for the Revelstoke Review, gives a sneak peak on what’s making news in Revelstoke. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
A sneak peak at the Jan. 21 news paper

Pick up your copy on news stands today

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Most Read