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Still no word on refugee families’ arrival

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Kathy Mueller has been trying to get some answers about when the two Iraqi refugee families the community is sponsoring will arrive here but keeps coming up empty-handed.

“We have looked into what’s going on and it just says they are in the process of doing background checks,” Mueller noted last week.

“And we can’t do anything to hurry up that process.

“It’s just so disappointing,” she lamented. “And you can’t get any information from anybody.

“So we’ll just wait for now.”

Mueller chaired the committee that spearheaded the fundraising campaign which garnered more than $60,000 for the cause by its Christmas Eve deadline last year.

The group set out last fall to raise money to sponsor a refugee family, with the initial goal of $35,000.

They were 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 was told last December the process to bring the families here would take about four-six months, so the committee was expecting them sometime during the summer.

“It’s unbelievably slow,” she remarked.

Mueller said if they opted to sponsor a different family at this point, there’s no guarantee they would get here any sooner.

“And then you’d have to tell that family that we no longer will sponsor them and you don’t want to do that,” she reasoned.

Mueller also noted the long wait time isn’t unique to Fort Frances. CBC recently reported that according to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, 25,756 applications are pending final processing.

It added the federal government says 2017 numbers will be lower compared to what it calls the “extraordinary target” in 2016.

In 2016, the target for refugees and protected persons was 55,800. In 2017, that number drops to 40,000.

But that is for all refugees from around the world—not only from Syria.

Mueller wondered if the process is taking longer because the families set to come to Fort Frances are Iraqi instead of Syrian.

“They are already in a sort of safe place in the refugee camp,” she said. “And there are millions who are not yet safe.

“I don’t know what the reasoning is. We can only surmise.”

Mueller noted Dryden recently welcomed half of their sponsor family.

“The other half was not approved,” she said. “You just never know what’s going on.”

Mueller said she just wishes there was better communication about the process.

“If they told us it’s unlikely they are going to be approved for whatever reason, then you could change your sights and do something different,” she remarked.

“In the meantime, we just have to wait.”

She is asking that the community be patient.

“We just have appreciated everyone’s support so much,” Mueller enthused.

“That spirit of giving is still alive in our community and we still appreciate it.

“We may have lost a bit of momentum but if we got a moment’s notice, we’d be able to pull together,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Mueller noted the apartment the group secured for the families is still available.

In fact, the landlord hasn’t charged them any rent yet.

“He’s been renovating the apartment so he’s just taking more time to renovate,” she explained.

“We’ve got furniture that was given by estates in storage,” she added.

Mueller said the money collected remains in the bank, with the only funds being used so far to pay for the cost of storage.

In the meantime, she’s hopeful they’ll see some movement with the process in the New Year.

“If it doesn’t, we can’t pay storage forever so I’m not sure what we would do,” Mueller admitted.

“It’s sad,” she added. “The community was absolutely amazing. We had such strong support and they were ready for them, and then the government is just holding things up.

“And everybody is discouraged because we could help but our own processes are getting in the way.”

On the other hand, noted Mueller, it’s good that they are doing thorough background checks.

“People are so worried about somebody coming in who is less than noble, so in a way we have promoted that background check that is so careful,” she said.

“And we want them to be carefully checked,” she added. “We don’t know who anybody is. We are just going on their applications.

“Everyone wants due diligence so I guess due diligence takes a lot of time.”

But Mueller reiterated they’ll be ready for the families once they receive word of their arrival.

“We’ve got everything,” she said. “We just need them.”

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