Reem Hameed desperately scours the internet each day for news about her sister and other Iraqi refugees who have been accepted to come to Canada but who are now trapped by the conflict in Syria.


Hameed, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ont., is among hundreds of private sponsors, including church and community groups, who have agreed to support refugees from Iraq.


But hundreds of the refugees, including Hameed's sister, Lula, and her two sons, are now caught in the growing violence in Syria. Hameed says the danger grows every day. Last month, two large explosions damaged her sister's home. The explosion also hit a bus that Lula's son normally takes to school.


Waiting for hope


"She was just shaking. It is so difficult for her," Hameed says, barely holding back tears. "They are just waiting for any hope and begging us, don't leave us alone."


Hameed's sister and her family fled Iraq and first went to Libya. But the war in Libya, along with threats on their lives, forced them to flee again. In April 2011, they were granted temporary residency in Syria. They contacted the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and were accepted and acknowledged as refugees.


Hameed says she and her family then applied to sponsor them as part of a Canadian government plan to settle thousands of Iraqi refugees in Canada. Their applications were accepted at the visa office in Damascus. But then the violence in Syria escalated and Canada closed its Damascus visa office in January, leaving the refugees in limbo.


Security concerns


Last month, Canadian immigration officials told CBC News that the department would begin by the end of May to process the applications of Iraqi refugees in Syria using video conferencing with Canadian visa offices in other parts of the Middle East.


But it's not clear if that has begun. In a statement Thursday to CBC News, Immigration department spokesperson Bill Brown wrote: "CIC continues its efforts to process as many Iraqi applications as possible under the circumstances. However, for security reasons, we cannot comment further on overseas refugee processing operations."


Lives on hold


The lack of information from Ottawa means frustration for Hameed and others. Hameed says her emails to immigration officials in Canada and at visa offices abroad have gone unanswered. Hameed says she's grateful Canada agreed to accept refugees from Iraq, but she says the situation for those caught in Syria gets more desperate every day.


"Their lives are on hold," she says. "How long will it take? God only knows."


Canada had identified refugees from Iraq as a priority group in need of protection. It has agreed to accept 2,500 Iraqi refugees each year for the next several years. Most are being sponsored by church groups and other private sponsors who provide financial and social support for the refugees when they arrive.


Meanwhile, Reem Hameed tries to maintain daily contact with her sister. Lula's cellphone service was recently cut, off so now she relies on email.


Hameed worries about the escalating violence in the region and for the safety of her relatives.


"Just give her a visa and let her and her family come here and live in peace," she said. "This is the only thing that we want."


Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Friday, May 25, 2012 purports to show police running toward a protest in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Friday, May 25, 2012 purports to show a wounded child being evacuated in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Saturday, May 26, 2012 purports to show an injured child in Houla, Syria. Government troops shelled a string of villages in central Syria before pro-regime thugs swept through the area, shooting people in the streets and in their homes in attacks that killed more than 90 people, activists said Saturday. The assault on Houla, an area northwest of the central city of Homs, is one of the bloodiest single events in Syria's 15-month-old uprising. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Friday, May 25, 2012 purports to show an anti-government protest in Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL

  • This image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and accessed Saturday, May 26, 2012 purports to show covered bodies after a government assault on Houla, Syria. Government troops shelled a string of villages in central Syria before pro-regime thugs swept through the area, shooting people in the streets and in their homes in attacks that killed more than 90 people, activists said Saturday. The assault on Houla, an area northwest of the central city of Homs, is one of the bloodiest single events in Syria's 15-month-old uprising. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) TV OUT, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL



live blog

Oldest Newest
syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


Share this:

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

Share this:

Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.

Read more on Reuters.com.

Share this:

The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

Share this:

How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

Share this:
syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


Share this:

According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.

Read more on Reuters.com.

Share this:

Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

Share this:
@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

Share this:
@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

Share this: