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

Forty-two residential properties in Oak Bay were assessed the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 for a total of $693,000. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
74 Oak Bay property owners paid $693,000 in spec tax

42 properties were assessed with the SVT in 2019

Jail cell - Reporter file photo
Two of Greater Victoria’s most notorious teenaged killers have parole privileges extended

Derik Lord gets overnight privileges while Kelly Ellard’s are extended

Staff at Artemis Place Secondary were shocked to find that one of the student-built greenhouses on the campus was stolen overnight on Jan. 11. (Artemis Place Society/Facebook)
Saanich school hopes to catch greenhouse thief red-handed

Student-built greenhouses stolen from Artemis Place Secondary on Jan. 11

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria raises record-breaking $350,000 for Salvation Army

The charity says it’s seen an increase in need since COVID-19 hit

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Smaller egg farmers find themselves in a David and Goliath situation when it comes to major producers and chain-grocery store shelf space. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island egg producer cries foul over ‘Island’ label

Egg farmer frustrated with regulations allowing mainland-laid eggs to be labelled ‘Island’

Police and fire crews at work at a fire scene at Mount Prevost School (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Classes cancelled by fire at a Duncan-area school for the second time this week

Fire this morning at Duncan area middle school follows Monday blaze at nearby elementary

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
Police seek public’s help after ‘tire slashing spree’ in central Nanaimo

Ten reports of slashed tires in the last three days, say Nanaimo RCMP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

50 km/hr speed limit sign.
POLL: What do you think the speed limit should be on residential streets without a centre line?

Traffic on side streets around Greater Victoria could soon be travelling at… Continue reading

Most Read