Kamloops newcomers recount journeys to Canada on World Refugee Day

By Jill Sperling
June 20, 2017 - 5:45pm

KAMLOOPS — World Refugee Day is recognized on this day every year, but never before have so many people been displaced by violence, persecution, and disaster. 

According to the United Nations, there are more than 65 million refugees and asylum seekers globally.

Kamloops Immigrant Services provides settlement and integration services to those who find their way to this city.

"When it comes to refugees, people don't always understand that these are people who are not just fleeing the country today," said Executive Director, Paul Lagacé. "They have most likely been in line to come in as refugees for years." 

That was the case for Hossni Salamh, whose family was displaced when war broke out in Syria.

"We (were) traveling when the (war began) in my country, traveling (to) many countries, and (lastly) going to Jordan and waiting to come to Canada," Salamh said.

Three months ago, Salamh and his family arrived. Now, he's learning English at Kamloops Immigrant Services, and his family feels safe. 

"We (were) looking to feel safe, and we (wanted) to leave ... and at last we (were) going to Canada, we (were) arriving here and feeling safe," Salamh said.

Afnan is also learning English at Kamloops Immigrant Services. Orginally, from Saudi Arabia, she arrived in Canada nearly a year ago. 

"In my country we have difficult laws for women," Afnan said. "It's not easy to be independent and free."

In Canada, Afnan has found the freedom she desired. 

"I feel I can do what I always dreamed to do," she said. "I can complete my studies, my masters, I can work what I want, no matter what. I can think more openly. There's no limits."

While Afnan and Salamh have found safety and comfort in Kamloops, there are millions more enduring unspeakable hardship. 

"People who are in need of applying as refugees, often their lives are threatened, they won't survive," Lagacé said. "So, when they become refugees by the definition their lives are at risk, and so the trauma that they've experienced can vary from torture to loss of family member, to a variety of different ill-treatments."

For those who have found a way out of such hardships, the knowledge of the plight of so many others continues to weigh heavily on their hearts.

"I wish to all the refugees in the whole world good luck, and peace, and my heart," Salamh said. 

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