A refugee case with local ties took a big step forward recently.
The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster filed an application to bring Mohammed Alsaleh’s family from Syria to Canada, and a Burnaby church has agreed to help with settlement services.
“I am so good right now. I feel so light and relieved that I finally achieved what I wanted to do,” Alsaleh said.
The Vancouver resident said his family members, now living in a border town in Turkey, were excited about the application.
“They feel so happy there’s a chance that all our family members will be in one place. Because of the war, a simple thing like a family picture is a dream to us, and we hope we can have that in the following few months,” he said.
Alsaleh arrived as a refugee in Canada more than two years ago, after he was detained and tortured in Syria. He left his family – his widowed mother and five siblings – behind in Syria. Two of his brothers made the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe last fall.
The Record first covered Alsaleh’s story last September, which inspired reader Deana Brynildsen to start an online fundraising campaign to sponsor Alsaleh’s family. The page raised more than $33,000 to bring the family to Canada. Once the money was amassed, Brynildsen and Alsaleh connected with the diocese, which has an agreement with the federal government to sponsor refugees. The diocese filed applications for the Alsaleh family members recently, and they were the only ones put forward, as the federal government has a cap on the number of applications it’s accepting. The diocese was hoping to apply for 125 people but was only allowed to submit applications for six. The diocese has since been allowed to apply for 10 more people.
St. Albans Anglican Church in Burnaby will help with settlement services: taking the family grocery shopping or helping register the kids for school, for example.
Alsaleh has since moved to Vancouver but plans to move to Burnaby or New Westminster once his family arrives.
No one knows how long the refugee application will take, but Alsaleh is guessing his family won’t be here until 2017. In the meantime, he works at Immigrant Services Society of B.C., helping other refugees and sending money to his relatives in Turkey.