Refugee family expected soon in Sooke

Iraqi family expected to arrive sometime this spring.

After 10 months of waiting and hoping, an Iraqi family sponsored by the Team Sooke Juan de Fuca Refugee SponsorshipCommittee has been cleared to come to Canada.

The family’s travel documents and exit visas still need to be arranged, which takes some time, though an arrival this springor early summer is most likely, noted Sid Jorna, committee chair.

“From the beginning, we’ve had amazing support from individuals, organizations, businesses, and faith groups throughoutthe region,” Jorna said. “It’s wonderful to be able to reassure the family that their new home will be safe and welcoming.”

Although the sponsorship group cannot make any firm plans until there is an arrival date, it is now beginning the search foraffordable accommodation. It is looking for a place that has two or three bedrooms, is on the main bus route (61) andlocated ideally in the Sooke town core.

The process is constantly evolving as well, which has brought up different challenges, said Sharon Sterling, the committee’scommunications coordinator. In the months she’s been involved, Sterling said the government has made efforts to listen toprivate-sponsorship groups and try to make the system go more smoothly.

Still, it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s an opaque system, you never really know what’s going on until suddenly they’ve got their interview,” Sterling said,adding the process is well on its way, considering they were given a 10-month waiting period since the sponsorshipcommittee began, unlike four or five years that other refugee sponsorship applications face.

Recent stirrings in the Middle East and U.S. were a concern, but Sterling said it hasn’t affected the application process.

“The asylum seekers coming over the [Canadian] border, that’s a whole other stream, it’s not part of the privately-sponsored refugee system,” she said.

Funding-wise, the commission raised a $54,000, surpassing its own $50,000 goal a notable achievement, but not one toget too comfy about, Sterling noted.

“We are anticipating some major expenses for the family in terms of some medical needs that may or may not be coveredand accommodation costs have gone up in Sooke by $200 or so, so things are shifting,” she said. “Right now we’reconfident that we can give them all the basics, there may be some things that come up where we raise additional funds for,but right now we can cover their needs.”

The family itself is taking its own steps to prepare for a new life in Canada as well, by taking english lessons with membersof the committee twice a week, and constantly asking about Sooke. Having lived in Baghdad, they’re city folk, which is whysome questions they ask about Sooke are genuine and curious, Sterling mused.

“They’re looking forward to it, and they’re anxious, so every now and then they’ll think of some other question, like howmany bears are there,” she laughed.

When departure time does arrive, the commission will get at least 10 days notice to get everything ready here. Once theyarrive, they will stay with one of the commitee members for a temporary basis until their permanent home is secured inSooke. Regardless of when that may be, everyone is excited as the process moves closer to completion.

“It’s all moving along.”

The sponsorship group will sign a lease on behalf of the family, and will guarantee that the property will be maintainedaccording to the terms of the lease, Sterling added.

If anyone has a lead on a possible rental, they should phone Howard Taylor at 250-642-0908.


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