EDMONTON – After allegedly being turned away by officials at a Lebanese airport, a Syrian refugee family bound for Edmonton was left stranded.
The family of four has been sponsored by a group from St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta.
“They showed up at the airport on the Wednesday and they gave their papers and something happened. The papers disappeared,” said Father Glenn McDonald.
McDonald said the group was left with the impression that the family had been delayed. They soon found out about their predicament through a Globe and Mail report.
Iwan and Zamzam Dalaa fled civil war in Syria four years ago. They have two young daughters; one of them has spina bifida.
“They had given up their place. They had no money, so they were stuck in the airport,” McDonald told Global News on Sunday.
“They slept in a mosque until some person came along and gave them a ride to someone’s house – someone they knew.”
Eventually the St. Joseph’s College group was able to get in touch with the family. McDonald said they managed to send them money on Saturday.
The group sponsoring the Dalaas reached out to both provincial and federal governments for assistance. Over the weekend, they were told the United Nations had stepped in.
“We’re not sure if it was the system that finally kind of got around to them or if someone intervened on our behalf,” McDonald said.
He said the Dalaas are booked to fly out of Beirut on Dec. 15. From there they will head to Jordan and then to Toronto. If all goes well, they will proceed to Edmonton.
A four-bedroom suite at St. Joseph’s College Women’s Residence has been set up as their temporary home.
The items inside were donated by the community, including food, furniture, clothing and bedding.
Danika Jurczak is a member of SJ1, one of the sponsor groups at St. Joseph’s College. She says they have networked with local mosques and other organizations to help the family settle in a new country.
“They’ve come forward and really been such a blessing. They’ve provided everything from food to also translators.”
There is no exact date marked on the calendar for when the Dalaas will arrive in Edmonton.
Father McDonald said their optimism is tempered with caution.
“We’ve had it where we had someone who was booked and then they retract it, so we’ll believe it when we see them walking down the hallway of the new Women’s Residence.”