Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Visas for Gazans' families are coveted

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Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes because of Israeli strikes, are sheltering near the border with Egypt in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian sisters Marilyn and Miran Kasken in Newfoundland say their brothers are living in this refugee camp.

The Canadian Press

Two Palestinian sisters in Newfoundland are among families across Canada seeking to obtain the limited number of special visas in hopes of saving their loved ones from the war between Israel and Hamas.

Marilyn and Miran Kasken say their younger brothers, Talal, 20, and Fahed, 21, share a tent in Rafah, near the Egyptian border. They have no water, no food, no toilets, no electricity and no internet.

They were living in Gaza City when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people. Almost immediately, Israel responded with near-constant bombardment throughout Palestinian territory. The brothers hid bombs in basements and walked past demolished buildings and dead bodies on their journey to Rafah, Marilyn Kasken said in an interview in St. John's, Newfoundland. /p>Open in full screen mode

Palestinians flee the Israeli ground offensive in the central Gaza Strip and head south through Deir al Balah, Friday, January 5, 2024.

To speak with her brothers and confirm that they are still alive, Marilyn says she needs to contact a friend in the West Bank who can make a local call to try to reach them if they have managed to find electricity to charge their phones.

The women say that since the start of the war, their uncle was killed and their grandparents had to stay in Gaza City because they were too old and frail to be evacuated. They haven't heard from their mother in a week and they don't know if she is still alive.

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The fate of our brothers and sisters is now in the hands of the Canadian government. If they want to save them, they can. They are lucky, said Ms. Kasken, 24.

She says every day her brothers spend in the Gaza Strip gets smaller their chances of survival. I don't want to lose another member of my family.

The special extended family program for Gaza residents is due to launch on Tuesday. This comes after months of advocacy by Palestinian Canadians for the federal government to help rescue their loved ones.

The Kasken sisters hired an immigration lawyer through an online fundraising campaign. Marilyn said the lawyer would spend Tuesday morning updating the online application for the portal with the documents ready, waiting for the first opportunity to submit it.

More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, about two-thirds of them women and children, and more than 58,000 have been injured since the start of the war, according to local health authorities in the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas.

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A Palestinian child in front an improvised cemetery in front of Al-Chifa hospital in Gaza City, ravaged by Israeli bombings.

The program offers visas to up to 1,000 people with extended family members in Canada. This would allow them to seek refuge in Canada for three years, if their families are willing to support them financially during this period.

Canada's current program is available only to immediate family members of Canadians, including spouses and children.

The expanded program will include a limited number of parents, grandparents, adult children, grandchildren and siblings of Canadians and permanent residents of Canada, as well as members of their immediate families.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has criticized the cap of 1,000 applicants and says it has already been in contact with more than a thousand people trying to evacuate their families from Gaza.

Marilyn Kasken echoed these frustrations, noting that Ottawa has welcomed more than 210,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks on their country since 2022.

It says that the lives of the Palestinian people do not matter, she argued.

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Israeli soldiers fire mortars near the border with the Gaza Strip, January 3, 2024.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada defended the cap and said the number of visas reflected the volatility of the situation on the ground and the difficulties faced by Canada and other countries to move people out of Gaza through the tightly controlled border with Egypt.

The Kasken sisters met Monday with a staffer of Seamus O'Regan, Liberal MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl, but said the meeting didn't leave them with much to look forward to. hope.

I want to wake up from this nightmare. I stop myself from thinking most of the time, but it doesn't work.

A quote from Marilyn Kasken

Sisters are arrived in St. John in October, thanks to the federal Human Rights Defenders Program, which resettles people who fight for basic freedoms but are at risk in their home countries.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">I don't really feel like I have a fresh start in Canada because I can't feel good things while I'm #x27;I am constantly afraid of losing my friends, my family and my brothers, she said.

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