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

TEASE PHOTO: Teens at the Bumpers dance club in Whalley in the 1980s, in a photo posted to the "Bumpers / The Zone OFFICIAL Party Page" on Facebook.com.
SURREY NOW & THEN: Bumpers and other teen dance clubs were big in the 1980s

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

Gurinder Mann. (Submitted photo)
Surrey man receives prestigious restorative justice award

East Newton resident Gurinder Mann one of five to receive a Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service looking to hire in-house lawyer

Solicitor to work within Office of the Chief Constable, serve on internal and external committees to ‘represent the SPS’s interests’

Surrey RCMP say that after checking on a “semi-conscious” driver in Whalley on Jan. 20, 2021, officers found about 21 grams of suspected cocaine, 68 grams of suspected fentanyl, about $1,400 in case, a stolen shotgun and ammunition. (Photo: Surrey RCMP handout)
Surrey RCMP say ‘semi-conscious’ driver found with drugs, gun

Officer saw ‘open alcohol and suspected drugs’ inside the vehicle, police say

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

Officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

Most Read