Canada

Brockville-based Somali refugee takes her plea to reunite her family to PMO

“My daughter was a baby when I left her; now she’s become a little girl and I need my husband and my daughter.”

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BROCKVILLE — “I need my husband and my daughter … they need me, too.”

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With those words, Nasro Adan Mohamed, a young Brockville-based Somali refugee , hoped to spur some long-awaited movement in efforts to reunite her with her family.

Mohamed joined supporters at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday morning to make her stalled case public.

Reading a speech she prepared herself, despite her struggles with English, Mohamed pleaded with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser to end a delay that has left her alone in Canada for 25 months.

She noted that, while Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the delay, she has heard of other recent refugees whose cases took less time.

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“My daughter was a baby when I left her; now she’s become a little girl and I need my husband and my daughter,” Mohamed said.

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“Please, they need me, too.”

Mohamed, 27, has been living in Canada since late October 2019, while her now three-year-old daughter, Afnaan, and husband, Liiban, have been living as refugees in Uganda.

The Brockville Freedom Connection (BFC), a refugee sponsorship group, has been working in partnership with First Presbyterian Church in Brockville to reunite and settle the family here.

First Presbyterian minister Rev. Marianne Emig Carr said the group dropped off two copies of a petition in support of Mohamed, which has collected more than 14,000 signatures. They dropped one into the PMO mailbox, while, at the nearby IRCC, staffers told them they could not accept the petition in person, but it had to be mailed.

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“The guys at the desk were very nice. That’s what they’re told to do,” Carr said.

“I went across the street to Shoppers Drug Mart and put it in there with express post,” she added. “It was quite ironic.”

NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan attended the event at the PMO to show support. She called on the Liberal government to address the backlog of refugee claims.

“If they don’t put additional resources into the system, we are three years away to get back to pre-pandemic levels,” Kwan said.

NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan speaks in support of Somali refugee Nasro Adan Mohamed at the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday, while Matthew Behrens, of the Rural Refugee Rights Network, dressed as Santa Claus, listens.
NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan speaks in support of Somali refugee Nasro Adan Mohamed at the Prime Minister’s Office Tuesday, while Matthew Behrens, of the Rural Refugee Rights Network, dressed as Santa Claus, listens. Photo by Handout /Postmedia

Rukia Warsame, a settlement counsellor with the Somali Centre for Family Services, said Mohamed’s case was unfortunately common in the Somali community in Canada. The speakers also included Palestinian refugee Jihan Qunoo, who earlier this year fought successfully for the reunification of her own family from Gaza.

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The Rural Refugee Rights Network, a loosely-knit group of refugee advocates, has also recently taken up Mohamed’s cause. Matthew Behrens, of that group, joined in Tuesday’s event dressed as Santa Claus, a gesture meant to emphasize both the spirit of generosity at Christmas and the fact this case concerns the welfare of a child.

Mohamed and her supporters are finalizing an application for an Early Admission Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which would allow Afnaan and her father to live in Canada until their sponsorship paperwork is finalized.

Carr said they spoke to an IRCC employee while at the ministry office and the interactions were amicable.

They want to pressure the government to expedite the matter, she added, noting the government was able to expedite refugee resettlement in the wake of the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.

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“So much of it is whether they have the political will to do it,” Carr said.

Mohamed’s refugee ordeal began at age 18, when she fled the violence of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Both her father and brother were killed in a bombing in that troubled city in 2013.

Mohamed fled to Uganda, where she ended up marrying Liiban while part of the lengthy refugee process.

Her Canadian supporters say she never received an explanation of how Canadian sponsorships work and, as a result, relied on the poor advice of fellow refugees in Uganda who told her not to list her husband and baby girl on the sponsorship paperwork.

“I did not have understanding for the resettlement process and I received bad advice from (a) trusted friend,” Mohamed said in her speech.

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She took the opportunity to go to Canada, believing she would soon be reunited with Liiban and Afnaan.

“That was in October 2019. When I said goodbye to them before boarding my plane, that was the last time I held my baby daughter and the last time I will hug my husband. I miss them so much and I am always worried about them. They are living in a country that is not safe.”

Mohamed, who works at The Score in Brockville and sends money to Uganda to help support her family, recalled how her worry intensified after suicide bombings last month in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Carr said Mohamed was buoyed by Tuesday’s events and touched by the support she had received.

“She’s very grateful to our community,” Carr added.

With files from Postmedia Network

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