Castlegar still waiting for refugee family

The Castlegar Refugee Project is still waiting to be assigned a family. Group will show the film "Salam Neighbor" May 29.

Salam Neighbor is about the people in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan which is located close to southern border of Syria

The Castlegar Refugee Project (CaRe) is prepared to welcome a refugee family to Castlegar, but due to slow governmental processes may still have a while to wait.

The group has the funding, training and accommodations needed to sponsor the family but has been told that since the government has already brought in the 25,000 refugees it had promised to bring to Canada, the staffing levels for medical screening, security screening and processing have returned to where they were before the election. This has resulted in a huge backlog in the processing of sponsorships leaving communities all over Canada ready, willing and waiting to be assigned a family.

“Sadly, we have no news,” said CaRe committee member Julie Leffelaar. “That’s hard. We haven’t been assigned a family and neither have many other community groups around Canada.”

The group’s sponsorship agreement holder, the Anglican Diocese of the Kootenays, puts in a bid in the lottery style process to be assigned a family every second week. They have been told the earliest they might expect to be successful is June. Once a family is assigned to Castlegar it could be many months before the family finally arrives. One estimate is October at the earliest, but it could be much longer than that.

“We are told to be patient, though we already have our funds, our training and even our house,” added Leffelaar. “Castlegar has been so great at joining us in raising funds and preparing for a family from a war-torn area in the Middle East, and this is a super place for a family to come.”

While CaRe waits, they are not sitting idle. The group is making plans for events, is continuing fundraising and some members are taking Arabic lessons. On Sunday, May 29 at 7 p.m. they will be showing the documentary film Salam Neighbor at the Old Castlegar Theatre. Admission is by donation.

The film is about the people in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan which is located close to southern border of Syria.

“Although the family we’ll be welcoming to Castlegar might not be Syrian, but could be from any war-torn area in the Middle East, Salam Neighbor shows us the realities of refugees in all UNHCR camps and in neighboring towns,” said CaRe member Antoinette Halberstadt. “When some of us saw this profound film in Nelson, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. As we were introduced to these women, children and men, we gained a new appreciation of their challenges, and respect for their resourcefulness.” A trailer for the film can be found on YouTube.

Anyone with questions about CaRe can contact Rosemary Manarin at rose_manarin@hotmail.com.

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