KELOWNA – New Year’s Eve celebrations took on new meaning for a group of Syrian refugees who arrived in Kelowna on Thursday night.
It was an emotional embrace as the grandmother hugged her two grandkids, who arrived in Kelowna a few weeks earlier with their parents.
Karla Alajie greeted her mother as she arrived at the Kelowna International Airport in the evening on New Year’s Eve. Later that night, four other family members arrived.
The Syrian family is thrilled to be ringing in the new year with a long-awaited reunion in their new home in Canada. They fled Syria two years ago and were staying in Beirut while they waited to be accepted into Canada.
When Karla Alajie and her family flew into Kelowna in mid-December, they were supposed to arrive with her mother, sister, brother-in-law and their two children. However, at the last minute, plans changed and the family was split up. Just in time for the start of 2016, they have all been reunited.
A Kelowna catholic church sponsored the family, something Keith Germaine of the church’s refugee committee says has been harder than it should have been. He says part of the problem is a lack of communication with the government.
“Hopefully the government is going to get better at this,” he said. “We understand why they are scrambling, but the lines of communication need to be improved a lot.”
The Alajie family has been provided with a condo from Habitat for Humanity, the school district is ready to welcome the kids into classrooms and English lessons will soon be set up for the parents. The Alajies say they’re overwhelmed with gratitude.
On Thursday, the Liberal government confirmed it didn’t reach its target of bringing in 10,000 refugees by the end of 2015, falling 4,000 short of its goal.
The federal government is maintaining its commitment to bring in the promised 25,000 Syrians to Canada by the end of February.
~ With files from Kimberly Davidson