Cambridge, Ont., man expresses relief and frustration as family expected to arrive from Gaza

Several months after the federal government announced a new visa aimed at helping Palestinians in Gaza with familial ties to Canada, Rami Aljadba of Cambridge, Ont., is finally expecting the arrival of some family members to the region.  Aljadba said the process wasn’t easy and some of his immediate family members fled Gaza in February without the help of the Canadian government, even though the visa program had launched a month earlier. “We want stability for the family,” he told CBC News. “We want to get them here, we want to get them into a more stable place where the kids can go on with their normal lives, with school, with health care, all these kind of things.”He explained it was a costly process paying an agency to get them out, and expressed frustration about the visa process and the government’s inability to get his family across the Gaza border. His sister and her family finally received their visas two months later, on April 7, while in Egypt, and Aljadba is expecting their arrival in Canada in a matter of weeks along with his father, who previously had a visa. However, his brother and his family are currently in Belgium awaiting their visas, but have been given a unique code, which is part of the second phase of the three phase visa application process. “The [Canadian government] might have some good intentions going into the program but it was handled in a very, very bad way,” Aljadba said.   At a news conference in February, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller acknowledged “people have actually been able to get through the border, I suspect, at great financial cost.””It’s very frustrating to me,” Miller said about how the program had played out. “I don’t want to put together a program that is failing but we are all failing Gazans at this point and I think that is something that we need to realize.” ‘We are all failing Gazans’: Marc MillerImmigration Minister Marc Miller, who was asked Thursday about efforts to get people with relatives in Canada out of Gaza, says the situation in Gaza represents ‘probably the largest hostage-taking, right now, in the world.’In an email statement in late February, Jeffrey MacDonald, a spokesperson with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), said “as of Feb. 26, 2024, 12 people who exited Gaza on their own and had [temporary resident visa] applications in process were able to submit biometrics and complete their application, and have been approved to come to Canada.” “Movement out of Gaza remains extremely challenging as countries and other actors set their own entry and exit requirements,” MacDonald said as part of that statement. CBC News reached out to IRCC for the most recent figures but didn’t hear back by the time of publication. Aljadba explained his sister-in-law and family also managed to escape on their own from Gaza to Egypt in early March and have received a code, but are awaiting a visa.His wife’s parents and his two brother-in-laws are still in Gaza with their codes too, but Aljadba’s family is debating on how to get them out.”Do we wait for our luck to see if [the Canadian government] can get them out or do we have to pay out of pocket again to get them out?” said Aljadba. “That’s the situation.”April marks the six-month anniversary of the Israel-Hamas war, which was sparked by a deadly civilian attack in Israel carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7.Media have reported more than 1,200 Israelis were killed that day and 253 taken into Hamas-controlled Gaza, according to Israeli tallies. Approximately 130 remain captives of Hamas. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory attacks, many are children and women, and more than 80 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced by the conflict.Aljadba said he’s feeling ‘more content’ now that many of his immediate family members have managed to leave Gaza. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)Hungry in the northAljadba said he feels “more content” now that some family members are out of Gaza and he isn’t “worried about calling in the morning and checking names to see if anybody was killed or injured or if anyone was bombed,” but his wife’s parents and siblings are still in the middle of Gaza. He has extended family in the north too.Those in the north are in a part of the territory which is on the brink of famine, and Aljadba said some there had resorted to eating animal feed, but even that has run out. “The whole thing is still going on,” Aljadba said. “And it comes with its whole mixed bag of anger and sadness and hopelessness, kind of emotions.”  Aljadba said his family has had some luck with getting food from the air drops, but not so much from the trucks delivering aid. But going out to get the food comes with its own dangers. He said that one cousin broke his leg scavenging for food, and a second cousin was killed by gunfire.He said family in the middle of the territory have had a much easier time accessing food than those in the north, but food costs are high there. “We send money from here,” Aljadba said. “Things are very, very expensive. A hundred dollars doesn’t go far.”Like for example … you’d buy one egg for three dollars. It’s just insane.” 

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