It’s taken more than three years, but Warm Hearts is finally ready to welcome their first family of refugees.
The Iraqi family, who have been living as refugees in Turkey, are expected to fly into Halifax on March 20 and then come to their new home in Westville.
The Al-shltan family includes a couple who are in their 60s and an adult son in his 20s.
“They’ve been in Turkey for four years-plus,” said Lennie White, co-chairman of Warm Hearts. “They’ve been waiting a long time.”
This family is different than other families that have been brought in as refugees in several respects, including the fact that they originally came from Iraq rather than Syria. They’re also Christian as opposed to the majority of refugees who are Muslim. Their hometown of Bartella was overrun by ISIS in 2014.
Warm Hearts started out like other groups in the county during the Syrian refugee crisis. About four months in, though, they found out about this particular family through connections with a family in Stellarton, White explained. That family had a relative studying in England who had befriended a son of the Al-shltan family. They suggested that family might be a good fit to sponsor.
“We’ve been waiting now for almost two-and-a-half to three years,” White said.
But the people he feels for most have been the Al-shltan’s who have been living in poor conditions while waiting.
“It’s good news for them.”
Most of the information they have about the family on a personal level has come through their connections in England. From what White understands is they fled Iraq because of persecution from ISIS. The son was first to flee to Turkey and his parents followed. They’re now living in Istanbul.
From what he understands, the father has a degree in agriculture and was employed with Iraq’s Department of Agriculture.
“He had a fairly high position as we understand it,” White said. “The adult son has a diploma in tourism or hospitality. We’re quite optimistic that the son in particular will be able to find employment fairly quickly in Pictou County.”
White said they’re thankful that there are several supports available in Pictou County now to help the immigrants learn the language and adjust to their new home, including the support from the newly hired refugee settlement coordinator.
For its part, Warm Hearts has an apartment in downtown Westville and will be furnishing it with the donations they have received.
For more updates, follow Warm Hearts on Facebook or visit their go fund me page.