Young refugees look to make move to Kingston

Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A pair of Afghani boys are hoping to call Kingston home with the help of local sponsors and the Anglican Diocese.

Hadi and Hassan met each other at 12 and 13 respectively at a small refugee learning centre in Indonesia, resettling there after life in Afghanistan became dangerous for themselves and their families.

The boys are both from the Hazara ethnic minority which puts them in danger of routine attacks from members of the Taliban, and the journey that has taken them to Indonesia has largely been undertaken to try to escape that danger.

They’ve been living in a youth shelter since arriving in Indonesia in 2017 but now, as they turn 18, they are “aging out” of the shelter and left with virtually no future prospects available to them in the country.

For the time being, they have been taken in by “Ms. Kailyn and Mr. Butch”, two teachers from Canada and USA respectively who have tutored the boys over the years and come to know them.

While Indonesia as a nation provides a landing spot for refugees, when they turn 18 they’re not entitled to be employed or attend school, like thousands of refugees in the country left safe but stranded with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

“While people’s bodies are safe technically, it’s not really a life,” Kailyn says of the reality of refugees in the country.

Kailyn and Butch were tipped off about the a process where groups of 5 people in a community can sponsor a refugee, essentially taking on the responsibilities required to ensure that the newcomer settles and adapts in Canada, and with family and friends in the Kingston area they set to work connecting with potential sponsors.

It requires five people to essentially step up and help ease the newcomers into the country, ensuring they have everything they need for the first year in Canada including financial support of $16,500 (shockingly meant to be enough to cover a person’s full year of expenses).

With that plan in place, the boys set to live with Kailyn’s parents in Kingston, Hadi and Hassan would likely not find themselves in Canada sooner than 28 months after the application was submitted.

Now, the sponsors have connected with the Diocese of Ontario Refugee Support (DOORS) which could cut the wait time in half.

The Anglican Diocese of Ontario has a formal relationship with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), and helps groups with the ample paperwork involved in the process and generally provide guidance throughout.

Mimi Merrill, Refugee Sponsorship Coordinator for the Anglican Diocese, says her position is focused on ensuring sponsorship groups know their responsibilities and providing support for refugees and their sponsors for some time after the arrival in Canada.

On average they help to send in nearly 70 applications and receive 40-60 refugees yearly, many of which tend to be family members of those that are sponsoring them.

Merrill says when it comes to Hadi and Hassan, the fact that they are so young and away from their families made it an easy choice for the Diocese to get involved.

“They’re still really young so for us that’s something that stood out as quite vulnerable and a high need for resettlement,” Merrill said.

“At that age that’s the age where you should be in school, you should be starting to plan your life and we want to give them that opportunity so they can start doing that as soon as possible.”

Merrill said arrivals were impacted by COVID, and there are nearly 100 people already approved and waiting in the pipeline to come to the community.

She says they’re always happy to help facilitate arrivals with willing groups of sponsors, but in general they could use assistance from the community in helping others find a new home without the benefit of having connections in the community.

“We have this list of people who are in very desperate need of resettlement and who just need a sponsor or sponsoring group who can come together, do the fundraising, and provide the supports needed,” Merrill said.

“That is a very high priority for us… some of these people have been on our lists for like four years and we can’t find them a sponsor.”

For Hadi and Hassan, they at least are lucky enough to find themselves in the former group, but their pseudo-foster parents in Indonesia say a transition to life in Canada is still going to be a difficult one for them.

Having a continuously improving grasp of the English language, one they’ve learned while also working on Indonesian, should help them get settled a little easier but they’ll have to once again get completely readjusted.

When they come to Canada they could use some help with clothes, getting connected in the community, and getting started with part time jobs – in Indonesia, the boys have gotten some experience working in barbershops and cafes.

And still, about $10,000 needs to be raised (select Hadi and Hassan from the drop down menu) to show the Canadian government there’s reliable funding to support the two in their first year in the country.

Over $25,000 has already been raised and Hadi and Hassan have since been told about their eventual move, and are nervous but excited.

Hadi said he and Hassan are feeling extremely grateful seeing the support from people who they’ve never even met.

“It brings happiness,” Hadi said.

“I wasn’t thinking that there will be so many people that are so kind and will be helping us to make a better life.”

While they’ve grown accustomed to waiting, they’re excited to continue their education in Canada and hope the move can come soon.