Page 23 - PC_Winter2020
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The Bumpy Road to Freedom
   By Dwight Irwin, Knox Presbyterian Church, Kincardine, Ont.
Every person on Earth has been af- fected by COVID-19.
For one Syrian family, who fled their country seven years ago and lived in a substandard Lebanese refugee camp for six years, the pandemic delayed their long-awaited flight to Canada, where they were excited to start their new life. The family of six was forced to wait many months longer than expected until it was deemed safe enough to travel to Canada.
“The family’s application was ap- proved in March 2020 and they were just awaiting their flight schedule when COVID-19 struck, and all flights were cancelled,” said the Rev. Kathy Fraser, Chair of the Kincardine Refugee Com- mittee, who is sponsoring the family. “We had just rented a house in the hopes their arrival was imminent, so once flights were essentially grounded this past spring, we just had to keep paying rent and waiting for the borders to open and travel to resume.
“Thankfully the people of Kin- cardine and area have been incred- ibly generous with their donations of money and household goods, including furniture, beds, clothes, toys, bikes, games for the kids and
so much more, so the waiting really was the hardest part.”
Permission for the family—which includes three boys aged 16, 14, and seven, and a 12-year-old girl—to travel finally came in August and they took to the skies on Sept. 10, with five of the six family members mak- ing the long trip to Toronto, and then being chauffeured to Kincardine.
The logistics created by the pan- demic made this pick-up from the airport unlike any other. After much research and planning, it was deter- mined that a limousine would be the safest way to transport the family, as the driver could isolate himself via the interior window, while a volunteer interpreter and a member of the com- mittee interacted with the family via cell phone and travelled close by in another car.
The family eagerly awaits the ar- rival of their patriarch, who had re- turned to Algeria to work so he could continue to support his family. The group has received news that he will soon be able to travel to Canada to reunite with his family.
“Back in Kincardine, our various committees and many volunteers had spent months preparing their home...and making sure everything was perfect for the family’s arrival,
because once they got to Kincardine we couldn’t have any [in-person] contact with them due to the quaran- tine rules.”
Once the family completed their 14 days in isolation, the committee arranged school visits, bank appoint- ments, English lessons and ensured their health care needs were met, all of which included the added stresses of language barriers and ongoing COVID-19.
But the family has been proving its resilience for years and is settling into life on the shores of Lake Huron. The committee is now focusing on get- ting the father to Canada, assisting the family with their English lessons, continuing to integrate them into the community and preparing them for the impending Canadian winter!
Knox Kincardine has been an active sponsoring group with The Presbyte- rian Church in Canada since 2016. With the support of PWS&D refugee sponsorship staff, they have already welcomed two families to Canada. This year, PWS&D staff assisted the group to submit a sponsorship ap- plication for a third family, as well as provided ongoing support to prepare for the arrival of the family mentioned in this article.
A Challenging Year for Refugee Sponsorship
 A Syrian family sponsored by Knox PC in Kincardine, Ont., arrives at the Toronto airport in September, after months of delays due to COVID-19.
By Winnie Bower, PWS&D Refugee Program Coordinator
As the world came to a significant halt in March 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19, so too did the ability to process privately sponsored refugee applications as visa offices around the world either shut down com- pletely or operated at very limited capacity.
Since August, the Canadian gov- ernment has prioritized travel ar- rangements to Canada only for those refugees who had their ap- plications approved before March 18, 2020, and who had received permanent residence visas before the borders closed. Unfortunately, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) has informed us that applicants can expect de- lays, due to COVID-19; however, it is currently unclear as to what these delays may be.
For the PCC, there were very few
applications at this final stage. Since August, we have been working in col- laboration with dedicated congrega- tions and presbyteries to prepare for the safe arrival of these individuals and families, and to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable place to stay during their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Despite delays in application pro- cessing, the effort at the refugee desk has remained constant, as we work alongside 14 congregations/ presbyteries to prepare application submissions for refugee sponsor- ship in 2020.
For all other applications, we re- main committed to advocating for faster processing times and a speedy reduction of the backlog of applica- tions caused by COVID-19.
We look forward to continuing to work with Presbyterians from across Canada in the new year. For more in- formation on refugee sponsorship, visit

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