A family that once faced deportation has been given a second chance at creating a life in Canada.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Wissam El Annan, speaking on behalf of his brother, Mahmoud El Annan.
Mahmoud and his family had spent years trying to flee Lebanon after gangs, who Mahmoud said were trying to extort him, went from threatening his livelihood to threatening his family’s lives.
After filing fruitless refugee applications, two years ago Mahmoud was able to get a tourist visa to the United States and he seized his chance, entering Canada at the border in Ontario.
Wissam – who came to Canada alone when he was in his teens over a decade ago, establishing a successful life for himself in Fort McMurray – says his brother was desperate to save his family and just wanted a chance at a peaceful life.
Since then, Mahmoud has built a good foundation for his family in Fort McMurray, finding work, a house and enrolling his two oldest children in school programs. The family welcomed a third child, five-month-old Ezabella, who was born in Canada.
But after spending thousands of dollars and countless hours navigating Canada’s complex immigration system, Mahmoud’s last application was denied.
In January, his family was told to leave Canada within 30 days or be forcefully removed.
Mahmoud and Wissam believe if the family is sent back to Lebanon they may not survive long enough to get another chance at a life in Canada.
“Just walking down the street, you can get robbed, you can get killed, you can get raped,” said Wissam.
In Bourj el-Barajneh, a southern suburb of Beirut where the family lived, on November 12 twin suicide bombings killed at least 37 people and injured another 180. Wissam said two of those killed were his cousins.
“I don’t want to be responsible for any deaths if they went back,” said Wissam, adding, “I knew how dangerous it was for them to be back there.”
Wissam says the family has continued to fight for another chance, and against all odds the Canadian government has shown the family leniency.
On March 23, Mahmoud learned the deportation order has been halted and Mahmoud will be allowed one last chance to reapply for residency from within Canada.
“I had zero hope,” admits Wissam. “I’m glad they gave us another chance, I’m very happy, very thankful.”
The family will have 30 days to reapply and the government will take another 30 days to review their claim before a final decision is rendered. Whatever decision they make will be final.
While the entire family was overjoyed, Wissam said Mahmoud’s daughter, Kadinje, 4, heard she would be allowed to return to school, “she wouldn’t stop crying all day.”
“Our country didn’t give us what we really deserved. This country does. We feel a lot safer here,” said Wissam, adding the family is grateful for the support their Fort McMurray community has showed towards them, a community they hope to one day be a permanent part of.
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