After a long wait, Selam Nega and Dani, her four-year-old son, were granted permanent residency by Canada early in 2020. However, as Nega prepared to make the flight with her son from Lebanon in October, she was faced with a big problem.
The two were initially hoping to leave in spring, as they had received the permanent residency more than six months before their October 14th travel attempt.
However, that was around the time the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck with its travel restrictions. But that was not the only thing preventing Nega from finally reaching the safety and security she seeks in Canada.
The Ethiopian national had escaped domestic violence in her home country as a teenager and started working as a housekeeper in Beirut before she was left to raise a child on her own.
Dani’s father moved to Canada years ago, leaving Dani and Nega behind.
Long story short, Nega eventually applied for refuge in Canada in a process that took 3 long years before it finally granted the mother and son permanent residency.
Nega and Dani’s Canadian sponsors had set up a donor-funded, furnished one-bedroom apartment in Toronto weeks before their expected arrival from Lebanon, sponsor Sandra Brunner told HuffPost Canada.
In the meantime, Nega quit her job, gave away many of her belongings, and ended her apartment lease in preparation for leaving the country.
3 days separated her from the departure date when Caritas told Nega that her file was missing a key document without which she would not be able to leave Lebanon.
She had not been informed that she’d need such a document throughout the years-long refugee resettlement process.
The document in question is required to prove that Nega is Dani’s only parent. However, the problem is that Lebanon is currently under lockdown and offices have been closed due to the COVID-19 situation.
This untimely paperwork problem forced the October trip to be canceled, as the document could not be secured in time.
“I was very upset, very upset,” Nega told HuffPost Canada. “I wasn’t expecting this to happen. I was happy that I was going to travel, only to be told that I can’t leave after all. I was shocked.”
Eventually, she was able to return to her apartment as she awaits the document’s approval. Now, left with nothing in Lebanon, she and her son are struggling daily to find food.
Brunner, who is now concerned about Nega’s safety, said she blamed the network of agencies involved in the refugee resettlement file.
“She should be here right now. Dani should be in kindergarten. Their new life should be starting. Instead, this error put them directly in harm’s way.”
The sponsor has since filed a complaint with the UN-related International Organization for Migration (IOM), which was involved in Nega’s case.
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