Richmond Village Refugee Welcome – We’re still here!
by Stephanie Williams
The war in Syria continues. Since the start of the conflict in 2011, 5.3 million Syrians have fled the country, but no end seems to be in sight.
In response to this catastrophe Richmond Village Refugee Welcome (RVRW) formed in 2015. It is one of dozens of local community groups that formed across Canada to bring Syrian families into their communities and help them become self-sufficient and contributing members of Canadian society. Mr. Trudeau pledged his support to bring refugees to Canada.
The initial sense of urgency gave RVRW the impetus to convene a group of dedicated volunteers who raised the funds mandated by the Canadian government, and embarked on the task of identifying a Syrian family to sponsor. The network of local refugee organizations led us to a family already settled nearby in Kanata consisting of a mother and her sons. This woman’s sister and her family successfully escaped from Syria, but are now living in Istanbul, Turkey. Since one of the primary objectives of the Canadian resettlement program is to reunite families, we reached out to this young family and began the arduous task of completing a mountain of government paperwork with the help of a volunteer immigration lawyer. That was almost two years ago. At the time, we were told it would take up to 5 months to get the family here. It has already been 17 months.
RVRW’s adopted family—father, mother & 4 boys—have been struggling to eke out their existence in an expensive city with no official supports. School & medical services are not easily available, and accommodation and food are in precarious supply. The father is holding down more than one job, and the 2 eldest boys are working with him. Their lives are desperate and it seems as though they are held hostage to the Canadian bureaucracy.
The urgency felt by the members of RVRW is now stifled. In the hope of expediting the family’s immigration, our M.P., Pierre Poilievre, has been contacted repeatedly. His office has contacted the Immigration department every month on our behalf, but little information is available. Our frustrations pale in comparison to the limbo that is the life of our sponsored family in Turkey. They love to hear from us and be reminded that we are here and will provide safety, help with schooling and language training, reunification with their family, as well as a new family of RVRW volunteers.
Just recently, there have been hints that the application is finally reaching its final stages of processing. As the medical examinations for our sponsored family have been ordered, if not yet performed, we were cautiously told that a spring arrival might be possible.
RVRW is grateful for the financial support of our community that allowed us to proceed with this sponsorship, and we look forward to sharing more good news as it comes.