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

  • Black off-duty St. Louis police officer shot by white officer

    World News CTV News
    St. Louis police say a black off-duty officer who heard a commotion near his home and tried to help fellow officers arrest three black suspects has been shot by a white officer who did not recognize him. Source
  • Footing the bill: Yukon willing to swap free trip for human toes

    Canada News CTV News
    Tourism Yukon has started a strange (but they insist, very real) search for donated human toes. The macabre contest comes after a brown, mummified toe served in a famous cocktail in Dawson City went missing. Source
  • Saudi Arabia says suicide bomber killed in foiled Mecca plot

    World News CTV News
    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi security forces foiled a terror plot targeting the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, exchanging gunfire with one of the suspects who blew himself up inside a home Friday, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said. Source
  • Saskatoon robbery foiled when worker disarms thief by hitting him with metal rod

    Canada News CTV News
    SASKATOON -- A robbery attempt in Saskatoon was apparently foiled when an employee disarmed the suspect. Police say a masked man forced his way in the back door of a business by pointing a handgun at the employee. Source
  • B.C. NDP to introduce throne speech confidence motion Monday, vote Thursday

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA - British Columbia's New Democrats say they will introduce an amended motion Monday that aims to defeat Premier Christy Clark's minority Liberal government. NDP house leader Mike Farnworth says the Opposition will introduce a confidence motion as an amendment to the debate on Thursday's throne speech. Source
  • Car barge on fire in Victoria's Gorge Waterway

    Canada News CBC News
    Victoria fire crews and a fire boat are battling what appears to be a large fire on a barge in the Gorge Waterway. The barge is loaded with crushed cars and smoke and flames can be seen coming from the cars. Source
  • Alberta transgender teacher fired in 2008 loses case in appeal court

    Canada News CBC News
    When a transgender teacher reached a deal in 2010 with the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District he gave up his right to have his complaint heard by the human rights commission, the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled. Source
  • Ruff looking entries for World's Ugliest Dog contest

    World News Toronto Sun
    PETALUMA, Calif. — The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest in California is celebrating the inner beauty and imperfections of man’s best friend on Friday. The pooches — many of which are adoptable or previously adopted — will face off in a red carpet walk and “Faux Paw Fashion Show,” organizers said. Source
  • Asian carp discovered near Lake Michigan

    World News Toronto Sun
    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A live Asian carp has been discovered in a Chicago waterway about nine miles from Lake Michigan — well beyond an electric barrier network designed to prevent the invasive fish that have infested the Mississippi River system from reaching the Great Lakes, officials said Friday. Source
  • Indigo backs down after illustrator claims they stole her Montreal 375 design

    Canada News CBC News
    Bookstore giant Indigo has stopped selling a gift card celebrating Montreal's 375th anniversary after an illustrator complained it had plagiarized her design. This is Bess Callard's original print, which she says was created in 2013. Source