Calgary communities coming together to help Syrian families

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SHAFAQNA - Communities around the city are starting to come together to help Syrians escape their war torn homeland.

A fundraiser was organized Sunday night to help raise money to sponsor families.

Organizers fear that this humanitarian crisis is being handled differently than those in the past because of religion.

Fadi Yacoub and his family now call Calgary home, after leaving Syria.

Thanks to the help of organizations like the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, they were able to escape the horrors of their homeland.

Now more groups are coming forward to help sponsor Syrian families.

“There are so many Calgarians ready to take in these refugees in their homes. Just bring them here. We are ready to take care of them,” Saima Jamal said. “So why do we have to have this sort of barrier, that you need to have this much money until you can even apply to bring them over here?”

Siama Jamal helped organize a rally in Calgary on Friday to address the Syrian crisis.

She’s working on a fundraiser to help sponsor refugees.

“This is one fundraiser that we would like to do without, because in a crisis like this, we need our government to just basically airlift these refugees, bring them here, give them temporary residence status until we figure our if they are eligible for refugee status or not. So we should not be having to raise approximately $26,000 per family just to bring Syrian refugees here during a crisis,” Jamal said.

Privately sponsoring refugees is a complex process that involves not only layers of paperwork but promising to be financially responsible for a family. That means around 26 thousand dollars for a family of four for a year.

Calgary’s mayor says the fundraiser being held Sunday night at the Abu Bakr Mosque is a great example of grassroots help but he’s calling for change in federal policy too.

“The federal government has changed policies to make it much harder for refugees to get here. They have said they are going to accept at least ten thousand more but it’s impossible for those people to come.  So we need to clear that up. But we also need to make sure that when the people get here, that they are welcomed, they are sponsored and that’s what Calgarians and people across the country need to be doing right now,” Nenshi said.

“Getting together in groups of five, whether it’s family or friends, church groups or non profits raising the money, so that when the federal government finally gets its act together, we will be ready to accept and welcome those people and help them build great lives here.”

The aim of Sunday’s event is to raise enough money to  bring at least two Syrian families to Calgary.

The organizer believes there would be more families here now if they weren’t from an predominately Muslim country.

“That’s exactly what is happening.  Looks at this – a mosque is stepping in to look after this,” Jamal said. “People like us, citizens, families, they are coming together in a very grassroots movement to help. This was not the case back when Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia was going through this.”

“If we were bringing in people other than Muslims, I don’t think this would be happening. I feel like this conservative government for the last ten years has this strange islamophobic tendencies of not looking after countries like Syria.”

Fundraiser organizers will only be keeping the money raised in trust. They say it will depend on the sponsoring organization to select the families who may come here.

“Today I heard that its 2500 refugees, yesterday it was a thousand who come to Canada. It’s shocking that the federal government has not gotten its act together on this but we need to look back to what we did with the Vietnamese boat people, with Ugandan refugees and just say cut the bureaucracy, cut the forms, send Canadians over there to process people, airlift them and bring them here quickly. Because regardless of what you think the root cause is or the military intervention, people are desperate now and winter is coming and it’s important that we get these people help now,” Nenshi said.

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