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Gazans who have relatives in Canada are growing impatient before new temporary immigration measures announced by the federal government come into effect on January 9.

« Coming to Canada does not mean abandoning Gaza

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Palestinian children in a refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, in the south-central Gaza Strip.

  • Rania Massoud (View profile)Rania Massoud

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">“I’m talking to you right now, but I don’t know if I’ll still be alive at the end of the day. » The broken voice on the other end of the line is that of Mohammad Abou Eljediane, 29.

He lives crammed with 75 other people, including his wife, his son, his brother and several of his nephews and nieces, aged from three to eighteen, in a 50 square meter room in a school in the UN in Deir al-Balah, in the south-central Gaza Strip.

We live in more than miserable conditions, he said during of a telephone interview with Radio-Canada. There is no drinking water, no food. Death awaits us at every moment.

Mohammad and his brother Bakr are waiting for just one thing: the entry into force, on January 9, of the temporary immigration measures announced last month by federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller, in the hope to reunite with their brother, Ahmad, a permanent resident of Ontario.

Under this new policy, extended family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, such as grandparents, brothers and sisters, directly affected by the crisis in the Gaza Strip will be able to obtain temporary residence in Canada.

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The program will offer three-year visas to up to 1,000 Palestinians whose family members are willing to support them during their stay in Canada.

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Ahmad Abou Eljidiane during his reunion with his wife Yara, who gave birth to their daughter under bombs in the Gaza Strip.

Blind, Ahmad is also impatient to find his brothers, Mohammad and Bakr. His story caused a stir last November when CBC filmed his reunion at the Toronto airport with his wife Yara and his daughter Sila, born under the bombs on October 23.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas after the movement's unprecedented attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which left around 1,140 dead, mainly civilians, according to official Israeli data. Around 250 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza, around 100 of whom were released during a truce in late November.

On the side Palestinian, 22,438 people, mostly women, adolescents and children, were killed in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest report from the Hamas Health Ministry, published Thursday.

I will do everything to bring my brothers here, to Canada, Ahmad confides to Radio-Canada. But I don't know if I will be able to do it alone. This is a big financial responsibility because the costs of traveling from Gaza to Cairo and then to Toronto are enormous.

He wishes that his third brother, Ramzi, also blind, could also join him in Canada, but he evokes the complexity of the reality of the Palestinians, divided between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, without any freedom of movement between these two territories.

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Palestinians fleeing the central Gaza Strip arrive in Rafah, in the south of the Palestinian enclave, on December 26, 2023.

Ramzi, a 42-year-old former journalist, lives in Ramallah, in the West Bank, after fleeing the Gaza Strip following the rise to power of Hamas, in 2006. He was shot in the leg by members of the Islamist movement.

Today, he sells coffee in Ramallah and takes care of his two children aged 9 and 10 alone. His daughter, Ola, 18, is in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip with her uncles, Mohammad and Bakr. His wife is stuck in Jordan, unable to join him in the West Bank or even return to her family in Gaza.

Not knowing if he will be eligible for the new immigration measures announced by Ottawa, he took the lead and began the process of obtaining a visit visa for himself and his wife. However, Ramzi will have to be patient, because the processing time for his request could exceed seven months.

I don't know what I will do if my request is refused, he told Radio-Canada. Where am I going to go? How will I be reunited with my family again?

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">A man mourns near the bodies of his relatives killed in an Israeli bombing in Deir al-Balah, December 20, 2023.

In Brantford, south of Toronto, Ont., Mohannad Shurrab, 49, has a lighter heart since his wife, Wafa, and two children, ages 8 and 12, were able to leave Gaza last November thanks to evacuation efforts organized by the Canadian government .

Today, it is his in-laws that he hopes to bring to the country. He is especially worried about his sister-in-law, a refugee in the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, who is pregnant. She will soon have to give birth by cesarean section while the few hospitals still functioning in this area are overwhelmed and severely lacking in resources.

Rafah, which had a population of around 300,000 before October 7 when the war began, has become the most densely populated area in the Gaza Strip. Many of the 1.9 million Gazans who fled the bombs have taken refuge there, although the city has not been spared from Israeli strikes.

Above all, we want to help them get out of there, explains Mohannad to Radio-Canada. My wife is doing everything possible so that her family can come to Canada, but we are realistic, we know that the process is likely to be very slow, he said while emphasizing that the evacuation of his wife and children from Gaza was very complicated. We had to wait a whole month with no guarantee. It was very hard.

Bureaucracy is not necessarily suited to extreme emergency situations such as in Gaza, where there are deaths every two minutes.

A quote from Mohannad Shurrab, a Canadian who has relatives in the Gaza Strip

Mr. Shurrab says, however, that he has mixed feelings about the emigration of Gazans while several Israeli ministers openly encourage the voluntary transfer of residents of the Palestinian enclave.

“Israel must work in cooperation with Canada and other countries to allow as many Palestinian refugees as possible to emigrate out of the Gaza Strip to lead a better life,” Danny wrote. Danon, Israeli MP and former representative of the Jewish state to the United Nations, on December 22 on the social network X.

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Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir called on Monday to facilitate a return of Jewish settlers to Gaza after the ongoing war and to “encourage” the Palestinian population to emigrate.

According to Mr. Shurrab, Canada and other countries that open their doors to Gazans must at the same time put pressure on Israel to guarantee the Palestinians' right of return to their lands.

He explains that when he was in Gaza, adults allowed to leave the territory under Israeli siege had to sign a document pledging not to return for at least a year . Such a policy was adopted in Israel in 2016, according to several Israeli media, including Haaretz and The Times of Israel.

In an email, a spokesperson for Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller says Canada would not tolerate the mass displacement of Palestinians. /p>

In response to the situation in Gaza, our priority is to reunite families in a way that does not hinder their ability to return to Gaza when circumstances permit, the press secretary said. M. Miller, Bahoz Dara Aziz.

She emphasizes the temporary nature of this new immigration program.

Vulnerable people want shelter and seek to be reunited with loved ones in Canada while aspiring to one day return to Gaza, she says in an email sent to Radio-Canada. This program not only does that, it was designed with that in mind.

In a post on Network X last week, Minister Miller said he never discussed the transfer of Gaza residents outside the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas and besieged by Israel.

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No one can force more than two million people to emigrate, reacted Elias Elkhoury, whose in-laws have taken refuge in the Catholic church in the devastated city of Gaza.

I think Gazans, even my wife's relatives, will want to return home once the war is over. Gaza is their land, they will not want to leave it indefinitely, he said in a telephone interview.

Coming to Canada is not abandoning Gaza, he still assures.

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Gaza's St. Porphyry Greek Orthodox Church, where Palestinians who fled their homes are sheltering, was damaged by an Israeli strike. (Archive photo)

In a tone of positivity, he believes that the Palestinian people will rebuild everything that has been destroyed. This will be an opportunity to build a new future. Reconstruction will also provide work opportunities for Gaza residents, he hopes.

Yes, there is destruction and death everywhere at the moment, but we also have to think about the post-war period. We must remain hopeful.

A quote from Elias Elkhoury, a Canadian who has relatives in Gaza

However, in Deir al-Balah, hope is very rare.

If I leave here, I will not come back, says unequivocally Bakr Abou Eljediane, who fears for the lives of his children aged 3, 7 and 12. I will not return to death, and Gaza is death.

Her wish is to get out of the enclave with her family as soon as possible. quickly possible.

We want to get out alive with the children, we want to live in safety and rebuild our lives elsewhere.

A quote from Bakr Abou Eljedian, a Gazan who hopes to find his brother in Canada

This is also the wish of his brother Ahmad, who lives in Brantford . I don't support the emigration of Gaza residents, but I want to see all my family safe, he said. I may be lucky enough to take my brothers and sisters to Canada, but many other people don't even have that opportunity.

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