Syrian refugees waiting in hotel dream of having own home soon

TORONTO -- Just days after arriving at a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey, Dilaver Omar and his family were taken in by locals who helped them adjust to their new life away from home.

See Full Article

A year and a half later, as Omar, his wife Dilsah Sahin and two of their children prepared to come to Canada through the government sponsorship program, they were told a family would be waiting in their new country to show them the lay of the land, he said through an interpreter.

Instead, the couple and their children -- 11-year-old son Beyez and 19-year-old daughter Hozana -- have spent the last few weeks in a north Toronto hotel that has become a de facto settlement for hundreds of government-sponsored Syrian refugees who have yet to find more permanent homes.

Eager to start their new lives and see their children back in school after a two-year hiatus, the parents said they long to move out of the crowded hotel.

"All I do is dream about having a home," said Omar, 45, noting the constant bustle of the building has grown to be "too much."

On a recent afternoon, dozens of people milled about the lobby, intercepting busy-looking settlement workers while young boys kicked a soccer ball in a corner. Children ran down the halls pushing toy shopping carts or strollers, while three young girls dressed in matching pink coats and boots played with the guest phone.

When they first arrived at the Toronto Airport Plaza Hotel -- the family shares adjoining rooms, each just large enough for two queen-size beds and a few suitcases -- other refugees warned of long processing delays, Sahin, 44, said in Arabic.

Settlement staff are doing what they can, she said, but it would be so much easier with a local family to show them the way.

Nour Daoud of COSTI Immigration Services, who is handling the family's file, said the intake and orientation process can take some time.

Families might miss an appointment for a health card while out looking for a home, she said. Housing is by far the biggest hurdle, she said, since many landlords require refugees to have someone co-sign their lease. And without an address, parents can't get their children in school.

But to her knowledge, no one has stayed in the hotel longer than a month, Daoud said.

More than 15,300 Syrians have arrived in Canada since the Liberals came to power, of which 8,859 are government-assisted, 5,426 privately sponsored and 1,081 a blend of the two programs.

The influx has forced agencies in three cities to request a break in the action so they can hire extra staff and find permanent homes for those who have already arrived before any more are cleared to come to Canada.

The federal government has said the flow will not be slowing down, but refugees already in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa have been staying in hotels for longer than expected.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested private sponsors could temporarily house government-sponsored refugees currently living in hotels. But Ottawa found too many flaws in the proposal, saying the federal government has a duty of care over government-sponsored refugees, and that refugees shouldn't have to move to one home, only to move again soon after.

Humaira Khan, who runs Partners in Humanity, said sponsorship groups like hers don't want to replace government efforts to help refugees, just supplement them.

The Toronto-area realtor has been helping families at the Plaza hotel find rental homes while waiting for the refugees her group is sponsoring to arrive.

"These people need us now," she said. "They're desperate."

Just this week, Khan helped a family of nine sign a one-year lease on a townhouse in Mississauga, west of Toronto. Locating a home large enough for the couple and their seven kids -- aged 4 to 14 -- that was also within their limited budget was difficult, and took several visits over the last few weeks, she said.

She even managed to find a race car bed for one of the boys, who had raved about the novelty item, she said. Seeing his face light up at the sight of his new bed was "a fairy tale," Khan said.

Two more families, one with five children and one with eight, are also house-hunting with Khan's help, she said.

Once they have settled in their new places, Khan said she hopes to arrange at-home English classes for the mothers, who may not be able to attend otherwise.

A sponsorship group formed of co-workers at the Lough Barnes Consulting Group has been waiting for months to be assigned a family, and has already figured out who will pick them up at the airport, stock the fridge and handle everything else that will come along with the mammoth task of settlement.

In the meantime, however, they are flexible with helping whoever is in need, said Steve Lough, the company's managing director.

He said they trust those in charge to know whether it's best to stick to the different refugee streams or to start some cross-pollination.

"They're all in need. If they can come faster government sponsored, if we can get them settled faster with private, what difference does it make?" he said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • German police: man attacks people with knife in Frankfurt

    World News CTV News
    In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, people under umbrellas on the square in front of the Old Opera in Frankfurt, Germany, on a rainy. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File) Source
  • Official: Troops withdraw from home of Uganda's Bobi Wine

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, UGANDA -- An attorney for Bobi Wine says Ugandan soldiers have withdrawn from the opposition presidential challenger's home the day after a judge ruled that his house arrest was unlawful. But attorney George Musisi told The Associated Press that security forces could still be seen in the village near the candidate's property outside the capital, Kampala. Source
  • Troops withdraw from home of Uganda's Bobi Wine: official

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, UGANDA -- An attorney for Bobi Wine says Ugandan soldiers have withdrawn from the opposition presidential challenger's home the day after a judge ruled that his house arrest was unlawful. But attorney George Musisi told The Associated Press that security forces could still be seen in the village near the candidate's property outside the capital, Kampala. Source
  • Italy's Conte to resign, seek nod to form new coalition

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte was meeting Tuesday with his cabinet before heading to the presidential palace to offer his resignation after a key coalition ally pulled his party's support over Conte's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Source
  • Estonia's new government sworn in with first-ever female PM

    World News CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Estonia's new two-party coalition government has been sworn in with the first female prime minister in the Baltic country since it regained independence in 1991. The 15-member Cabinet of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas -- a 43-year-old lawyer and a former European Parliament lawmaker -- was approved Tuesday in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature, after President Kersti Kaljulaid had first appointed it. Source
  • Quebec media must be allowed to show the ravages of COVID-19

    Canada News CBC News
    Editor's note: Nineteen media outlets in Quebec, including the CBC, have signed an open letter today calling on the Quebec government and public-health authorities to give journalists access to the province's health institutions. In March of 2020, the world started to grasp the magnitude of the developing public health crisis when disturbing images began to emerge from Italy. Source
  • Indian police fire tear gas in clash with farmers in Republic Day protests

    World News CBC News
    Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades and clashed on Tuesday with police in the capital, who fired tear gas to restrain them, shortly after a convoy of tractors trundled through the city's outskirts. Growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014. Source
  • Family of mentally ill Ontario man who killed his mother day after seeing psychiatrist says doctors failed him

    Canada News CBC News
    Family members of an Ontario man diagnosed with schizophrenia say his doctors didn't do "their due diligence" when they failed to admit him to a hospital after he called a crisis line the day before stabbing his mother and setting her house on fire with her inside. Source
  • Plan to rebuild defence early-warning system means political, fiscal headaches for Trudeau government

    Canada News CBC News
    It's not the SHIELD you're probably thinking of — the one with the super-spies and flying battleships from Marvel comics and movies. In fact, the SHIELD at the centre of the upcoming evolution of NORAD — the six-decade-old North American defence pact — shares nothing with its fictional counterpart but the acronym. Source
  • Inside Canada's largest COVID-19 outbreak in a federal prison

    Canada News CBC News
    During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Doyle was doing his best to follow public health orders and keep himself and his young family free of infection. But last November, Doyle ended up back in Manitoba's Stony Mountain Institution north of Winnipeg after violating parole conditions for a drug trafficking and break and enter conviction. Source