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Refugees plead for family reunification

September 21, 2015

By Sunny Dhillow, Globe and Mail |

An Iraqi teen who has been without her mother for more than a year. A woman from Yemen who was forced to leave her newborn behind and has not seen him in six years. A man from Uganda whose last glimpse of his two sons was a decade ago.

Refugees who arrived in Canada without some of their closest family members attended a tearful news conference in Vancouver on Monday to discuss a reunification process they say is far too slow.

A day earlier, the federal government – which has been criticized for its response to the refugee crisis abroad – unveiled new measures to speed up the resettlement process. But the refugees who spoke at Monday’s event, and the advocates who joined them, said Ottawa can do more, particularly when it comes to bringing families back together.

Huda Mohammed Ahmed Ahmed, a 14-year-old who was born in Iraq but whose family fled to Turkey because of the war, came to Canada with her older brother last year as a government-assisted refugee. Their mother has not been approved to come, and remains in Turkey.

“I miss her,” the ninth-grader said in halting English, standing on a toolbox so she could see over a podium.

Khadija Ahmed, who is not related to the teenager, gave birth to a son in Yemen two weeks before she learned she could come to Canada. Ms. Ahmed had believed her application – filed four years earlier – would never be approved and had not updated it to include her new child or new husband.

She had a choice: Ms. Ahmed could move to Canada with three of her children, or stay in Yemen and resubmit her application. She chose the former, hoping her newborn and her husband could quickly follow. That was six years ago, she said, sobbing as she spoke.

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