Syrian refugee gets status in Canada after bureaucratic battle

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Dima Siam, a Syrian mother of four, was granted permanent residency in Canada after living under a deportation order for more than two years

Siam, pictured with three of her children and her husband, had lived in a state of limbo in Ottawa since her permanent resident application was denied in 2012 (Courtesy: Mohammad al-Rayyan)
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Last update: 
Saturday 13 May 2017 20:47 UTC
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TORONTO, Canada – A Syrian mother of four who has lived under a deportation order in Canada for more than two years has finally been granted Canadian permanent residency.

Dima Siam lived in a state of uncertainty in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, since her application for permanent residency was first rejected in 2012 due to a paperwork error.

“Thanks God this nightmare and hardship is finally over,” Siam said in a statement put out late Friday to announce that she had received her long-awaited visa.

“I hope the government takes more measures to reform IRCC [Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada] to make sure newcomers are treated equally and get the help they need to better integrate in Canada,” she said.

Siam came to Canada with her husband, Mohammad al-Rayyan, and the couple’s three children in 2012 as the war in Syria worsened.

Al-Rayyan and the children hold Canadian citizenship, while Siam entered the country on a visitor’s visa.

She applied for permanent residency soon after her arrival, but Canadian immigration officials denied her request due to an error on her submission.

After several failed attempts to resolve the problem, and a bureaucratic back-and-forth, Canada put Siam under a deferred deportation order in early 2015.

While Siam could not be legally deported to Syria due to an administrative deferral of removals Canada put in place due to the ongoing war, she lived in legal limbo without a clear immigration status in the country.

She was unable to work, and she could not access free healthcare and other social services.

Speaking to Middle East Eye last July, her husband said the situation was taking a toll on Siam’s mental health, and on their children. The couple’s eldest son, Anas, was especially “traumatised,” al-Rayyan said.

“For example, he wouldn’t dare stay in another room [because] he is afraid that somebody will take his mother from him,” he said.

Last year, Diam was granted a temporary residency permit after Canada’s immigration minister personally intervened in her case.

But her application for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was until recently still marred by bureaucratic obstacles.

More than 40,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada since late 2015, fulfilling a promise made during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election campaign.

Sponsored by private groups and the federal government, these Syrian refugees were granted permanent resident status immediately on arrival.

Human rights activists have estimated that several hundred Syrians, most of whom arrived in Canada in the early years of the war in their country, are currently living in Canada under deferred deportation orders.