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Whatever happened to… Alan Kurdi and the Syrian refugee crisis, part 2

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees meet sponsors and relatives at the Armenian Community Centre in Toronto on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The federal government appears likely to miss its latest target to resettle 10,000 Syrians by the end of this year.
Newly-arrived Syrian refugees meet sponsors and relatives at the Armenian Community Centre in Toronto on Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The federal government appears likely to miss its latest target to resettle 10,000 Syrians by the end of this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

On this episode of the Global News podcast Whatever Happened To…?, journalist Erica Vella revisits the story of Alan Kurdi and the Syrian refugee crisis (Part 2)

In 2012, Ruba Bilal was living in Damascus, Syria with her husband and two sons; she had reached a level of stability in her life, but the country where she had lived her whole life was in the middle of a dangerous civil war.

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“I remember that there were bombings and a lot of detaining of activists,” she said.

Bilal said she was an activist in her community and worked on providing aid to people who were in areas that were under siege, but her family had concerns that she would be taken and detained because of the work she was doing.

READ MORE: Trudeau wants 25,000 more Syrian refugees in Canada by Jan. 1. Not realistic, say advocates

“We were discussing for a month. My husband was worried about me because I was more active on the political side and my work … was not safe for me. He just wanted me to get out. We were seeing a lot of my friends were detained, were followed; we were every day worried that someone would knock on the door and will take me,” she said.

READ MORE: Trudeau praises Nova Scotia chocolate factory run by Syrian refugees

That year, Bilal and her family felt tensions beginning to mount and she said they made the decision to temporarily relocate to Lebanon.

“We agreed that we needed to go to Lebanon, just to see how it goes,” Bilal said.

Read more: 2 Syrian smugglers get 4 years over Alan Kurdi’s death

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“Then we will go back like all other refugees when they left Syria. They thought it’s going to be months and we will go back.”

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As the civil war continued, it was clear Bilal and her family would never have the chance to return to Syria and she submitted an application to LifeLife Syria, an organization that connects Syrian refugees with potential sponsors in Canada.

In 2016, she learned her family would be coming to Canada as privately sponsored refugees.

“They connected us with the three families … that help those like us … show us what to do … and they also host us in one of the ladies’ house in their basement for 40 days before I find my own rental,” she said.

Bilal and her family were one of thousands who came to Canada in 2016, after the federal government made promises to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees.

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The commitment came after a photo of two-year-old Alan Kurdi garnered international attention on the dangers refugees undertake to seek safety.

WARNING: The image below contains content some viewers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

Kurdi and his family were attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat after fleeing war-torn Syria. On the journey Alan, his brother Ghalib and mother Rehana perished; Abdullah Kurdi, Alan and Ghalib’s father, was the only one to survive.

On this episode of Whatever Happened To…?, Erica Vella speaks with Bilal about how she and her family adapted to life in Canada. She also finds out what happened to the Kurdi family and if the federal government has continued its commitment to resettle refugees in Canada.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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