Refugee from Somalia and her supporters are taking family’s case to PM’s office

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An unofficial delegation will try to present a petition with almost 13,000 signatures calling for a special permit to reunify Nasro Mohamed with her three-year-old daughter, Afnaan, and husband, Liiban.

After waiting more than two years to be reunited with her husband and little girl, a Brockville-based refugee is taking her case straight to the Prime Minister’s Office.

On Tuesday, Nasro Mohamed, a young Somali refugee, will join supporters — including Santa Claus — at the PMO’s Wellington and Elgin street entrance to press for expedited action in bringing her husband and child to Canada from their current refuge in Uganda.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan will be part of the unofficial delegation trying to present a petition with almost 13,000 signatures calling for a special permit to reunify Nasro with her three-year-old daughter, Afnaan, and husband, Liiban.

“Please Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Fraser — please grant my family the permits we need so that we can be a family again!” Mohamed said in a prepared statement, referring to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser. “My daughter was a baby when I left and now she’s become a little girl. I need my husband and my daughter and they need me.”

Mohamed, 27, has been living alone in Canada since late October 2019, an agonizing stretch in which her hopes of quick reunification with her family have been dashed as the process has ground to a halt.

She has watched her daughter grow up in weekly video chats, while working at The Score in Brockville to help support her family overseas.

The Brockville Freedom Connection (BFC), a local refugee sponsorship group, has been working in partnership with First Presbyterian Church to reunify and settle the family here.

Mohamed’s refugee ordeal began at age 18, when she fled the violence of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Both her father and brother were killed in a bombing in that troubled city in 2013.

Mohamed fled to Uganda, where she ended up marrying Liiban while part of the lengthy refugee process, complicating matters and resulting in her coming to Canada alone.

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Despite their best efforts and what locals consider an ironclad case for Mohamed’s family to be granted a permanent residency visa like her, there has been little or no progress on the case.

Her Canadian supporters say she never received an explanation of how Canadian sponsorships work and, as a result, relied on the poor advice of fellow refugees in Uganda who told her not to list her husband and baby girl on the sponsorship paperwork.

First Presbyterian and the BFC are joining forces with the Rural Refugee Rights Network, a loosely-knit group of refugee advocates, in an application for an Early Admission Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which would allow Afnaan and her father to live in Canada until their sponsorship paperwork is finalized.

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Matthew Behrens, of the Rural Refugee Rights Network, said Tuesday morning’s event is just a request to the government that it do its job.

“It’s a combination political lobbying effort as well as trying to work within the machinery, which is terribly dysfunctional right now,” Behrens added.

Nasro Mohamed’s husband, Liibaan, and daughter Afnaan remain stuck in Uganda.
Nasro Mohamed’s husband, Liibaan, and daughter Afnaan remain stuck in Uganda. Photo by Nasro Mohamed /Postmedia

He notes the Liberal government campaigned on a special visa program to allow refugees to reunite.

Behrens said the Santa Claus element of Tuesday’s event would not be about levity.

“People associate Santa Claus with love, with giving, with honesty, with integrity and with caring for children,” Behrens said. “Santa is a universal symbol of that love and that embrace that we want to offer to Afnaan and to Liiban.”

Nancy Cassie, head of the BFC, said Mohamed’s case exemplifies the harm that these situations cause not only to refugee families, but also Canadian society at large.

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Because her husband and daughter rely on her overtime wages to survive, Cassie said, Mohamed has had to stop her English as a Second Language courses and put on hold her nursing education, and at a time when Canada urgently needs nurses.

Both Cassie and First Presbyterian minister Rev. Marianne Emig Carr say the local sponsorship group has enough money to settle the family here.

Behrens, meanwhile, hopes Mohamed’s case will embolden other refugees in the same situation, but he deplored the fact this woman has to make her suffering public to get movement on the file.

“Why do we put refugees, who have been through so much, through this re-traumatizing?” he said.

In an email to The Recorder and Times, Alexander Cohen, press secretary to the immigration minister, said he could not immediately comment on individual cases without the person’s consent.

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More generally, Cohen said Canada remains recognized throughout the world for its efforts to resettle refugees even in these difficult times.

“Global migration has been upended by the (COVID-19) pandemic and the entire resettlement system is operating at reduced capacity, due to a constellation of different issues,” he wrote.

These issues include the Afghanistan crisis, which “has strained the resources of everyone working in refugee resettlement,” Cohen added.

“In this era of upheaval, we continue to live up to our dedication, reputation and obligation by continuing to help the world’s most vulnerable find refuge in Canada.”

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