Syrian refugee arrives in Calgary after more than year-long wait
“Welcome to Canada!” those words, blissful to Tarek Nemr, after a gruelling 18-hour flight from Jordan to Calgary.
The 22-year-old had been waiting for this day for more than a year.
“It feels so good to be here. I feel like I’m dreaming right now,” Nemr said. “So many emotions. It’s so good to see all of these people who have been talking to me over the last year and a half.”
Nemr fled the violence and bloodshed in Syria, and was living in Jordan as an asylum seeker. He always dreamed of moving to Canada, and in 2015, the Calgary Centre for Global Community took up his cause, and started raising money to bring him to Calgary.
“I think it’s amazing to be able to recognize the potential we actually have to change someone’s life, and today, in this moment, is very much an indication of that,” said Salima Stanley-Bhanji, the CEO of the organization.
Global News began following Nemr’s story in December 2015, after the Canadian government announced it would be welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by February 2016.
The ongoing conflict in Syria has been called one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Nemr faced many challenges trying to get to Canada. His sponsors had to raise $12,500 and find accommodations for him in Calgary for at least a year. There were also complications with his paperwork, then a month before his arrival, Nemr said he was interrogated for more than four hours and had lost hope he would be approved to come to Canada.
“Through the government sponsorship, they weren’t actually allowing single males to be sponsored,” Stanley-Bhanji said.
“He fits that demographic that we’ve been told to fear and because of that, I’m quite sure it’s made the process more difficult for him.”
As a show of support, Nemr’s cousin flew in to Calgary from Ottawa on Monday just to greet him.
“He’s free, he’s in a country where he can do whatever he wants, he can practice whatever he wants, he can go wherever he wants,” Whalied Nsairi said. “This is very important to me because I’ve got that, and now it’s only fair that he gets that.”
Nemr’s priority is to find work but first, Nemr may need a moment to take it all in.
“I can’t tell you anything right now because I’m not thinking,” Nemr said. “I should hug everyone twice, before doing anything else.”
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