A family of 10 Somali orphans and their 18-month-old niece arrived in Winnipeg Thursday night from Saudi Arabia where they lived for several years under the threat of deportation.
The Somali refugees, who range in age from 8 to 16 years old and includes the 18-month-old daughter of the eldest girl, were brought to Canada by their sponsors, the Winnipeg’s Hospitality House Refugee Ministry and the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land.
The eldest of the children, a 17-year-old boy who arrived in Winnipeg in Oct. 2014, described to reporters the danger his siblings faced, saying “Every day in Saudi Arabia is dangerous.”
The arrival of the Somali orphans ends their tragic journey that began when both their parents died in Saudi Arabia.
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Their father worked at the Somali consulate in Jeddah. The children were born in Saudi Arabia but their mother died of cancer and their lives were again devastated when their father died of complications from diabetes, said Karin Gordon, the executive director of settlement at Hospitality House, in an phone interview Friday.
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Two family members who had travelled to Saudi Arabia to help the children after the parents had died but were shot and killed by squatters at the front door of the family home when they returned to Mogadishu, said Gordon who is 69 years old.
The children were stripped of their legal status, making it illegal for them to stay in the country. Their documents were taken by Saudi officials.
The eldest of the children managed to make his way from Saudi Arabia to the border crossing between Emerson, Manitoba and Pembina, North Dakota. He then walked all the way to Winnipeg, Hospitality House said.
“It’s a better future,” the teenager told reporters, who is now in Grade 12 at the Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, and hopes to study engineering after high school.
“We are overjoyed for them and for their brother,” said Gordon. “To be able to give them a new life… it always feels wonderful to be a part of that.”
Hospitality House is seeking financial assistance to help the family and has set up a Go Fund Me page.