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Group still awaits refugee families

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While the process to bring two Iraqi refugee families to Fort Frances has been moving along, the local “Families for Families” committee still is waiting for word of their arrival.

“We don’t know when; they don’t know when,” said Kathy Mueller, chair of the committee that spearheaded the fundraising campaign which garnered more than $60,000 for the cause by its Christmas Eve deadline.

“It’s just a waiting game.”

But Mueller noted the situation is the same right across Canada.

“Groups have raised money to bring refugees over and it just seems to be a very slow process,” she remarked.

On May 9, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada sent 40 additional staff to the Middle East to process Syrian refugee sponsorship applications, in response to complaints from Canadians exasperated over processing delays after the government met its target of resettling 25,000 Syrians refugees by the end of February.

The government wrapped up a six-week “blitz,” in which officials completed 6,100 refugee interviews, on June 20.

A government notice dated June 22 indicated “these individuals and families will continue through the screening process overseas, which includes full health and security screening.”

“It will take approximately three-six months from the interview for refugees to complete the rest of the process and arrive in Canada,” the department said.

It added that following the interview, and the completion of health and security screening, a visa officer will make a decision on applications and issue a visa for approved applicants.

“Once a visa has been issued, the refugee(s)’s information will be passed to the International Organization for Migration [IOM],” it continued.

“The IOM will organize the Canada orientation abroad training, obtain the necessary exit permits from the country where refugee is located, and schedule transportation to Canada.

“Flights are generally arranged within four-eight weeks following a visa being issued,” it noted, adding private sponsors then are advised generally 10 business days in advance of the arrival of their sponsored refugee(s).

The federal government maintained that “every effort” will be made to finish processing all applications for privately-sponsored Syrian refugees, submitted up to March 31, by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

According to numbers from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada published by the Toronto Star last month, 27,580 refugees have arrived in Canada since November.

Another 16,902 refugee resettlement applications are in process while 2,906 cases have been approved but have not travelled.

Mueller noted back in the fall when she set out to raise money to sponsor a refugee family, the initial goal was $35,000.

The committee was assigned a six-member Iraqi family consisting of a father, a mother, a 16-year-old daughter, a 15-year-old son, an eight-year-old son, and a three-year-old son.

When funds surpassed the goal, the committee decided to apply for a second family, which is related to the first one, with a father, a mother, a three-year-old daughter, and a 10-month-old daughter.

Mueller said the first family has had their medicals and interviews, and now are waiting for their Canadian visa.

Meanwhile, the application for the second family has been processed in Winnipeg but they have yet to go for their interviews and medicals.

Mueller, who was told back in December the process would take about four-six months, conceded it is taking longer than she expected.

She noted the committee currently is paying to store furniture and other items it has received.

“We have had a couple of estates give furniture so we have lots of furniture for them,” Mueller said, adding the local Catholic Women’s League hosted a “kitchen shower” for the families.

“So their kitchen is pretty well ready as far as all of the equipment.

“So once they come, then we’ll be able to go ahead with clothing and all that,” she noted.

And having secured an apartment for the families, the committee soon will have to begin paying rent on the unit.

“The owner is just upgrading it right now and everything will be finished soon,” Mueller said, noting the committee had done a good job getting things together.

“So we’re ready for them,” she stressed.

“We just need to know they are on their way, and then we can furnish the apartment and make the beds.”

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