Mohammed Al Rayyan was full of hope when he fled war-torn Syria with his young family in 2011 — but his wife now faces deportation over what appears to be a bureaucratic dead-end.
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Al Rayyan, a Canadian citizen since 2002, currently works as a systems engineer in Ottawa. But when he first returned to Canada, he went on social assistance for a few months to make ends meet while searching for work.
“Within 16 years in Canada, those were the only two-to-three months that I had to be on assistance,” he said. “So that was a mistake. I admit that was a mistake. But that should not be taken as an excuse to destroy my family.”
Al Rayyan and his wife Dima Siam, who have three children, met when Al Rayyan was visiting Syria in 2006.
When the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Siam came to Canada on a tourist visa. Al Rayyan hoped to sponsor his wife but Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has denied his application.
"There is evidence that the sponsor received social assistance for a reason other than disability. These rules were put in place to protect taxpayers," CIC said in a statement.
The young family’s immigration challenges are common enough — and can result in costly appeals and legal fees, immigration law expert Jamie Liew told CBC News.
"It’s going to cost the taxpayers a lot more money in the end to process this family when he technically should be able to sponsor his family," Liew said.
Liew said the sponsorship application process is complex.
"There is no leeway sometimes and unfortunately, the consequences are harsh," Liew said.
Al Rayyan said he is now faced with the option of presenting his wife to Canada Border Services Agency for deportation to Syria — or waiting for an agent to arrest her.
"Everything has changed in our life. It has become very, very tough," he said.