First refugee family expected soon

Kiera Kowalski
Summer reporter

One of the two Iraqi families the community is sponsoring will be heading to Fort Frances soon.
The whole process has been one big waiting game–and Kathy Mueller finally is relieved to hear some information.
She said the family of six the local committee was assigned, consisting of a father, mother, a 16-year-old daughter, and three sons aged 15, eight, and three, have had their visas issued and their medical work completed.
All that’s left is to wait for travel arrangements to be made–a process Mueller conceded could take some time.
“I’m hoping it will happen fairly soon but it’s all dependant on government offices,” she remarked.
The family currently is being housed at a refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.
When they arrive, the family will be greeted at the Fort Frances Airport by Mueller and the rest of the committee, and escorted to the three-bedroom apartment that has been rented for them.
The apartment is fully furnished with pieces that have been purchased and donated by an estate.
A representative from Diocesan Office of Refugee Services (DOORS) will travel with the family and help with translating.
Once they’re settled in, Mueller said the next steps will be to get the family registered with government services in town.
They will need to set up an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), get their government identification, such as a health card, and get their children registered for school.
As for English, Mueller said they don’t know much.
“They may have had some English prep in the refugee camp,” she noted.
“I think [DOORS] mentioned that the teenage girl has a basic understanding of certain words.”
As such, the family will be enrolled in second-language classes here.
“We will have to help them transition into our culture the best we can,” Mueller said.
The local committee originally got together in October, 2015 to start planning to sponsor a refugee family here.
In December of that same year, they sent away the application. It’s been a waiting game ever since.
Mueller wondered if the reason why the process took so long is that because the family coming here is Iraqi, not Syrian.
“They are already in a sort of safe place in the refugee camp and there are millions who are not yet safe,” she had told the Times previously.
“I don’t know what the reasoning is. We can only surmise.
“We’re just trying to be patient,” Mueller stressed.
“We will let the community know as soon as we have more information on their arrival.”