For Syrian refugee family, Canada offers hope — but a faint one
Single men upset by decision to accept only women, children and families
The faces of the Syrians who Canada hopes to help are unsmiling and hardened from more than four years of a brutal civil war that shows no sign of ending.
Of course I would go to Canada. What a better life my children would have there.- Sanaa Hassan, Syrian refugee
They are the faces of the three young Hassan children, who spend the day on the streets of central Beirut with their mother as she begs for change to pay for food.
The oldest, Roula, is three. Her cheeks are covered in dirt. She's too young to remember her father, who has been missing inside Syria for more than a year and a half.
"I'm not sure he's even alive," Sanaa Hassan, 28, says. "I spend my days worrying for my husband."
Hassan and her children fled the northern Syrian province of Idlib two years ago. The family's home was damaged in what Hassan said was an airstrike by the Syrian air force.
Life is much safer in Beirut, but it's still hard. Hassan says she's been unable to find steady work, which means spending several hours every day looking for handouts on the streets of Hamra, a downtown Beirut district packed with cafés and shops also popular with Syrian refugees.
Hassan was unaware of Canada's pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrians, but when asked whether she'd like to be included, her eyes light up and she smiles.
"Of course I would go to Canada," she says. "What a better life my children would have there."
But even she knows that's unlikely.
There are 1.1 million Syrians living in Lebanon registered with the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR. In total, there are roughly four million living in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the countries Canada is drawing its Syrian refugees from.
The Canadian effort will limit those accepted to children, women and families, sources tell CBC News. Unaccompanied men are not expected to be part of the program, due to security concerns.
- Refugees to be initially housed at military sites
- Cost of refugee plan pegged at $1.2B over 6 years
- Mulcair opposes exclusion of some men in refugee plan
Outside a coffee shop in Hamra, that detail leaves a group of young Syrian men disappointed.
"It's not fair," said Ismail, 23, who came to Beirut from eastern Syria four years ago.
"We left Syria because we were fleeing war. We are not terrorists. I need to find peace for myself."
Ismail cleans dishes in a Beirut restaurant and tries to send some of his earnings home to his parents, who remain in Syria.
He wants to restart his electrical engineering studies, and urged countries such as Canada to open their doors to all Syrians.
"The war won't stop, so me and my friends need to find a place to start our lives again."