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

The City of Surrey is currently working through the initial phase for a park that’ll be built at 72 Avenue and 191 Street in Clayton. (Image via City of Surrey)
New park to be built in Clayton Heights

City of Surrey asking for feedback from Clayton residents

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

Sources team members (left to right) Carrie Belanger, Abby Gemino, Tatiana Belyaeva, Yasmin de Joya-Pagal cheer during the 2020 Coldest Night of the Year event. This year’s event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sources photo)
White Rock’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser goes virtual

Annual walk raises funds for variety of Sources programs and services

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Members of the community participate in the 7th annual Coldest Night of the Year event Feb. 22, 2020. This year’s event will have a virtual aspect to it because of COVID, says organizer Courtenay van den Boogaard. (Photo Submitted: Amanda Grewall)
Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser to support Cloverdale Community Kitchen

Annual events raises funds to help homeless community

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

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 say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Most Read