How Montreal organizations are preparing for arrival of Syrian refugees
MONTREAL — Anas Hariri can’t wait to see his sister again.
“It’s like a dream, I need to realize it,” said Hariri, who is sponsoring his Syrian sister and his seven-year-old nephew Nabil to come to Montreal.
“People there cannot work, children cannot go to school,” he said. “So the situation is unbearable.”
The two are set make their way to Montreal this month, along with thousands of other refugees. However, Hariri’s sister and nephew are coming here because of his private sponsorship. And after months of hard work, Hariri is now just waiting.
“She’s counting the seconds to be informed of the date of her trip to Montreal,” Hariri said.
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Another Montrealer playing the waiting game is Sylvain Thibault, who is part of an organization working with refugees.
“All this week it was quiet so far,” he said. But before this calm, there was a storm.
His job was to sort through thousands of volunteers and tackle an avalanche of emails and phone calls.
“Sometimes it was one email a minute and some times twice an email a minute,” added Thibault.
Now, the bulk of their work is done.
“We just closed a 10-year chapter of a Canada who was a little bit against the refugees,” said Thibault.
Which is why at Action Refugies Montreal, the work has just begun.
“We were used to taking 15-20 cases per year,” said Lauren L’Allemand, who is in charge of the Refugee Sponsorship Program at Action Refugies Montreal.
Now they are at 70 heading towards 100.
“About 60 per cent of our cases are Syrian, but we also have people arriving from all different backgrounds,” added L’Allemand.
The demand is so high, they’ve had to expand this month.
“We call it the West Wing,” said Paul Clarke, executive director of Action Refugies Montreal, as he walked into their new office space across the hall.
“Up until now we had about three employees but we had to expand because we had so many requests.”
“There’s still a lot of integration work that needs to be done,” added L’Allemand.
But in Hariri’s case, he knows exactly what to do once his family arrives.
“We can go to the Old Port, to downtown and Sainte-Catherine Street,” said Hariri with a smile.
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