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

  • Indiana family plans to sue over tot's fatal fall from cruise ship

    World News CBC News
    There are "a million things" the cruise company could have done to prevent the death of an 18-month-old Indiana girl who fell to her death from an open window on a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, the toddler's mother said in an interview broadcast Monday. Source
  • U.S. police officer suggests Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be shot

    World News CTV News
    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., walks out of a House of Representatives office building, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Source
  • Trump expands fast-track deportation authority across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    SAN DIEGO - The Trump administration is expanding the authority of immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges ahead of deportation. The Homeland Security Department said Monday that fast-track deportations will apply to anyone in the country illegally less than two years. Source
  • Huawei hit with security questions as it unveils high-speed rural internet project

    Canada News CBC News
    Huawei Canada was hounded by questions about national security concerns and its ties to the Chinese government today as it announced that it will bring high-speed internet to a number of northern and rural communities. With tensions between China and Canada still running high over the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer in Vancouver, the Chinese telecommunications company announced Monday that it has federal approval to partner with two companies, Ice Wireless and Iristel, to connect 70…
  • Saskatchewan farmers convert old grain bins into unlikely tourist cabins

    Canada News CBC News
    Nothing says "Saskatchewan" quite like spending a night inside an old grain bin. In recent years two families in the province have converted decommissioned round metal grain bins into unlikely accommodations, and opened their yards for visitors to stay. Source
  • Police search for witnesses after man found dead, ejected from his car

    Canada News CTV News
    GEORGINA, Ont. -- York Regional Police are appealing to the public for witnesses following a fatal collision in south-central Ontario on the weekend. Police say they responded to a call in Georgina, Ont. Source
  • Titanic survivor's light-up cane goes for US$62,500 at auction

    World News CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Titanic survivor's walking stick with an electric light she used to signal for help from a lifeboat has sold for US$62,500 at an auction of maritime items in Rhode Island. Guernsey's auction house held the auction in Newport on Friday and Saturday. Source
  • O'Regan visits Attawapiskat, assures community in water crisis: 'We are not satisfied'

    Canada News CTV News
    Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan said Ottawa will bring medical teams to Attawapiskat First Nation this week, after he visited the reserve in northern Ontario on Sunday, at the request of the community's chief. Source
  • N.L. fishing guide among dead in Labrador plane crash, four still missing

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A funeral for an experienced fishing guide and father of three is to be held in Deer Lake, N.L., today, one week after a float plane that he and six others were on board crashed into a lake in Labrador. Source
  • Iran's supreme leader vows not to give up on Palestinians

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader was quoted Monday as saying during a meeting with a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that his country won't give up its stance in support of the Palestinians. Source