Nova Scotia

Syrian family's new arrival date awaited by sponsor group

Members of Saint Benedict's parish in Halifax are still waiting for news about when a Syrian family that was expected to touch down in Halifax earlier this week will arrive.

Members of Saint Benedict's received word Thursday the family of 4 won't be arriving as planned

A family of Syrian refugees are being interviewed by authorities in hope of being approved for passage to Canada at a refugee processing centre in Amman, Jordan November 29, 2015. A church group in Halifax say they don't know when the family they're sponsoring will be able to travel. (Paul Chiasson/Reuters)

The fridge was stocked, the beds were made and welcome signs were ready to go, but a Syrian family didn't land as planned in Halifax last week and it's unclear when they'll arrive.

The church group at St. Benedict's parish in Halifax that is privately sponsoring the family of four says they still don't know what caused the change in travel plans either.

Chris Yetman, chair of the refugee committee at the church, said the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration contacted him Thursday morning relaying a change in plans. The group hasn't heard any information since.

"You just hope they're fine," he said. "One of their children could be sick. They could've missed a connecting flight. They could simply not had the right papers with them. There's a whole raft of reasons. You obviously don't go to the negative. We're hoping it's a matter of logistics."

The group received just nine days notice the family would be flying from Lebanon on commercial flights.

People quickly arranged to rent an apartment, set it up with all the necessities including furniture, power and internet — plus some home-cooked meals. 

The Syrian family is the fifth the group has sponsored in recent years. The parish heard they were approved to come in June. Unlike the government-sponsored refugees, the parish will be responsible for looking after the family for the next year. 

Yetman says they even made special plans to greet the family at the airport's arrival gate in anticipation that the parents and young children might need a hand navigating through the airport. 

He says organizations that are sponsoring refugees should know they often often only get news of flights a few days before the refugees touch down in Canada.

"You're given very little notice so you need to have your ducks in a row, ready to go," he said, adding it helps to have furniture donations and plans lined up in advance.

For the Clayton Park parish, it's now a waiting game.

"It could be two days, it could be two weeks," said Yetman. "Disappointment for sure, we know these people want to get out of the conditions they're living in and we're ready willing, able to help them ... I have a firm belief that they're coming soon."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC in Halifax. Over the past 13 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. Please send tips and feedback to elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca

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