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

  • Giant rabbit said to be 'fit as a fiddle' dies aboard United flight from London to Chicago

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — United Airlines is investigating a report that a giant rabbit died on one of its trans-Atlantic flights. Distraught breeder Annette Edwards from Worcestershire in central England told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Simon, a 10-month-old, 3-foot (meter) -long continental rabbit, had a vet check shortly before travelling from London’s Heathrow airport to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Source
  • Crane climber in Toronto rescued, arrested [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — Some streets in Toronto’s downtown core were closed early Wednesday as dozens of construction workers and commuters gazed skyward to watch police and firefighters try to rescue a woman who got stuck atop a tall construction crane during the night. Source
  • Questions persist in death of prominent New York judge

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- When Sheila Abdus-Salaam agreed to speak this month at an alumni gathering at Columbia Law School, it was business as usual for someone in demand as the first black woman to serve on New York's highest court. Source
  • Mounties suspect 2 government officials leaked classified shipbuilding information

    Canada News CBC News
    Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Mark Norman (left) speaks with Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd during a change of command ceremony, Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) The RCMP are accusing the military's second-in-command of passing cabinet secrets to a Quebec shipping executive in a cozy relationship meant to advance a navy project he "personally" favoured, according to a newly unsealed search warrant. Source
  • 'Mistakes happen': How 'miscalculation' could spark a U.S.-North Korea conflict

    World News CBC News
    Despite heightened tensions, many experts say it's unlikely the U.S. and North Korea are headed toward imminent military conflict. While the leaders of both countries are impulsive and unpredictable, they are also desperate to avoid pre-emptive strikes. Source
  • Pie, tart shells from Edmonton bakery recalled nationally due to E. coli scare

    Canada News CBC News
    Various brands of pie and tart shells that were sold across Canada are being recalled due to E. coli fears. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the shells were produced by Edmonton-based Harlan Bakeries. The Deep Dish Pie Shells, Sweetened Tart Shells and Tart Shells are sold under the Great Value, Apple Valley, Western Family and No Name brands. Source
  • United investigates report that giant rabbit died on flight

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- United Airlines is investigating a report that a giant rabbit died on one of its trans-Atlantic flights. Distraught breeder Annette Edwards from Worcestershire in central England told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Simon, a 10-month-old, metre-long continental rabbit, had a vet check shortly before travelling from London's Heathrow airport to Chicago's O'Hare airport. Source
  • Death of giant rabbit adds to United Airlines woes

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- United Airlines is investigating the death of a giant rabbit on one its trans-Atlantic flights, adding to a growing list of customer complaints for the U.S. carrier. Distraught breeder Annette Edwards told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that a veterinarian checked Simon, a 10-month-old, 3-foot (meter)-long continental rabbit, shortly before the animal was put on a flight from London's Heathrow airport to Chicago's O'Hare. Source
  • Five facts about the crane rescue operation in Toronto

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- A rescue operation was conducted in downtown Toronto on Wednesday morning after a woman became stuck atop a pulley device swinging from a tall crane. Here are five things to know about the rescue. Source
  • 'Very, very great': Trump's speaking style still flummoxes linguists

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Campaign promises may have been reshaped and some self-imposed deadlines reset. But among the things kept intact in the opening months of the new administration is the unmistakably distinct style of U.S. Source