Separated family welcomes Canada’s ability to expedite immigration applications from people living in earthquake-affected areas
A refugee sponsorship group in Saskatoon is heartened by news that Ottawa may expedite existing immigration applications from people affected by the recent earthquakes in Syria and Turkey.
The group Moms for Refugees is helping to provide private sponsorship for a Syrian couple in Turkey who have been separated for almost six years from their 10-year-old son Adnan Kharsa, who lives in Saskatoon.
“It’s really sad that something so devastating actually gives a glimmer of hope,” said Kyla Avis, the lead volunteer in the Moms for Refugees group.
On Wednesday, Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser told reporters that Ottawa is “in talks” about expeditious prosecution of permanent resident applicants who are in earthquake-affected areas.
“Some could be very badly affected, others may be in a region that didn’t suffer the same impact from the earthquake,” Fraser said, adding that they are gathering information and trying to figure out what else can be done.
Asked for more information about Fraser’s comments, the federal agency provided CBC News with a statement.
“Canada is deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of those affected by the earthquakes,” it said. “We are monitoring the situation very closely and determining the best way forward.”
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday killed more than 22,000 people and injured tens of thousands. According to official figures, around 12,000 buildings in Turkey have either collapsed or been badly damaged. The humanitarian crisis follows decades of civil war in the region that has displaced millions of people and deepening economic turmoil.
Wafeek Kharsa, Adnan’s uncle, said the boy’s parents and sister escaped injury in the city of Mersin on the edge of the earthquake area but now spend most of their time outside in cold temperatures for fear of aftershocks and being unable to work.
“It’s a bit scary there after the earthquake. You have no electricity. They’re on the road,” Wafeek, 22, told CBC News on Friday.
He said he assured Adnan that he would see his parents soon.
“We told him, ‘You’re fine. You’re coming. On the way.'”
family separated by war
Adnan, a 5th grade student in Saskatoon, was forced to separate from his parents in 2017 due to the conflict in Syria. He spent several years in Malaysia with his grandmother and uncle until family in Saskatoon privately sponsored them to come to Canada. They joined 14 other family members in the prairie town.
Meanwhile, Adnan’s parents, Mohammed Kharsa and Yasmine Sheikho, fled to Turkey – without passports and lots of money – to avoid army recruitment.
The Moms for Refugees group raised $32,000 to privately sponsor Adnan’s parents and sister.
The Kharsa family expressed frustration last year at not being able to submit applications due to the Ottawa moratorium due to increased demand and delays in processing. Applications were accepted in July 2022 and the family was deemed eligible in October 2022, subject to medical and security clearance. At the time, the family were warned that it could take two more years for Adnan to be reunited with his parents.
After the earthquake, Avis emailed the Office of the Minister for Immigration, urging it to expedite the Kharsa family’s application.
“Two days later, I actually received an email saying they were looking into expedited applications and that I should fill out a form to speak about the changing circumstances of Adnan’s parents,” she said.
Avis’ basement is full of furniture for the Kharsa family. She prepares volunteers to handle the logistics, from renting a house to applying for health cards.
“We hope and eagerly await and prepare for the possibility that they could be here within weeks,” she said.
“I think the compelling argument has always been her separation from her young son, but given the situation and the circumstances of her town at the moment, I think it’s really urgent that they get here as soon as possible.”
Check out Adnan Kharsa’s video chat with his father: