Jamal, 30 years old: “We are so thankful to Canada for bringing us here. We are originally from Al Qamishli in Syria, an area controlled by ISIS. We just moved to our new apartment in East Ottawa a few weeks ago. We are comfortable here, though we still have difficulties communicating in English.”

“I am hoping to find a job soon after completing language classes, and I dream of buying a big car and a house. At this moment though, there is nothing more important for us than the safety and security we have been offered.”

“We don’t know many people yet, but we spoke with Syrian families who have been in Canada for a while. They reassured us that there are many opportunities here. So, I hope finding a job would not be a big issue. I was a plumber back in Syria.”

“We are expecting our second child. So far, there is no indication the baby will also be sick. Our daughter was born with the Leigh Syndrome, a rare disorder, making it difficult for her to swallow among other issues. We have to feed her through a tube. Even if our daughter is severely disabled, we feel so fortunate to have a child to love. So many Syrian families have lost their children on the dangerous journey crossing the Mediterranean.

“I remember the Canadian Official who met with us during the interview in Turkey telling my wife, ‘Your daughter is going to be well and you are going to give birth in Canada’.”

Jamal Mahmut likes talking on the phone to his siblings back in Syria and Turkey. He dreams of bringing them to Canada one day. He wants safety and security for them too, but for now he is longing to become financially independent to take care of his family. Jamal Mahmut, his wife, younger brother and two-year-old daughter were resettled from Turkey. “We didn’t know it was Canada. We went ahead and just registered as we were desperately looking for a safe place.”

Subhi Nahas, a 28-year-old refugee from Syria (right), walks with his American partner, Mark Averett, in the Castro District of San Francisco. © UNHCR/Nick Otto
The Mahmuts’ daughter has Leigh Syndrome, which means she is fed through a tube. They have been relocated closer to a hospital in Ottawa which specializes in paediatrics. © UNHCR / J. PARK
Jamal Mahmut, 30, shares a photo of his father on his smart phone.© UNHCR / G. CAPRIOTTI
Jamal Mahmut (right, 30), works on a job application, while daughter Shems and wife Ahlam Habo play in their apartment in Ottawa, Canada. © UNHCR / G. CAPRIOTTI

Thirty-year-old Jamal Mahmut and his family are Kurds from Syria, an ethnic minority that has faced discrimination from the Syrian government. They arrived in Canada at the end of January 2016, as part of the country’s humanitarian program to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. UNHCR worked with Canadian immigration authorities to allow for the quick identification of vulnerable Syrians in the Middle East, particularly from Lebanon and Jordan, and facilitate their move to Canada. The program, which officially started in November 2015, ended at the end of February 2016 but many Syrian refugees continue to be admitted to Canada. So far, about 286 communities across Canada have welcomed Syrian families like the Mahmuts.

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