Most of us will not have to go through four and a half years of separation from our loved ones so won’t have a very good understanding of what Talib Ahmed felt when he welcomed his family at the Toronto Airport last Friday. His two sons were in their teens and his daughter was only two years old when he left them living underground in Jordan. The joy the entire family radiated was only surpassed by Talib when they stopped in at the MCRS office to introduce and to celebrate with friends!
Talib and his family fled the culturally rich country of Iraq, for Jordan in 2007 because he was persona non grata in the eyes of the Iraqi government. They did not appreciate his critiques of their human rights abuses that he had exposed to the world as a journalist. Talib feared for his life and that of his family.
The best choice Talib and his wife felt they had when arriving in Jordan was that they should all register with the UNHCR as refugees and try to get to Canada. Jordan does not allow refugees from Iraq so the family was forced to live under cover in that country, relying on the good will of friends and family to keep them alive. Talib left for Canada and registered as a refugee claimant, not expecting that it would take over four years before he would be reunited with his family. During those four years, he wrote multiple letters, was refused twice by the Government of Canada, was eventually accepted as a protected person, then granted Permanent Residence status and finally was able to apply for his family to join him.
MCRS has walked with Talib throughout this journey. Talib has “given back” to MCRS offering his services as a volunteer translator. In 2008 Talib wrote:
The process for a refugee claim is very long – 2 to 3 years. It is tearing at family relations. We miss each other a lot. One time, I called my wife and she asked me to talk to my son but I refused because I was afraid I might break down. When I talk to my kids, I feel sad and whole day because I don’t know how long it is going to take before I can see them again…
I would like to thank the MCRS for their help. They did their best for me and I feel my heart is larger now since I have found good people like those at MCRS. I am proud because I am working with them as a volunteer. If I had not had the support of the staff there, I might be in a very critical situation – like a blind man, really – especially during my first month in Canada. They are playing a very important role, more than the government, more than social assistance.
When Talib arrived in Canada he had some cash that was loaned to him by friends and family. When he was finally granted his work permit, he took on work as a car salesman, sending most of what he made back to his family for their survival in Jordan. Talib is not able to boast of economic wealth. But these physical challenges fade into nothingness when Talib considers that his family has not only escaped with their lives from Iraq, survived the challenges of living underground in Jordan, but has passed through the Canadian immigration system. The family is together, something he does not take for granted and for which he is deeply grateful!