Dilaver Omar (centre) sits with his wife Dilsah Sahin (left) and their 11-year-old son Beyez Omar in their room at a Toronto hotel on Jan. 29, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)Instead, the couple and their children — 11-year-old son Beyez and 19-year-old daughter Hozana — have spent the last few weeks in a north Toronto hotel that has become a de facto settlement for hundreds of government-sponsored Syrian refugees who have yet to find more permanent homes. Eager to start their new lives and see their children back in school after a two-year hiatus, the parents said they long to move out of the crowded hotel. "All I do is dream about having a home," said Omar, 45, noting the constant bustle of the building has grown to be "too much." On a recent afternoon, dozens of people milled about the lobby, intercepting busy-looking settlement workers while young boys kicked a soccer ball in a corner. Children ran down the halls pushing toy shopping carts or strollers, while three young girls dressed in matching pink coats and boots played with the guest phone.
Housing the biggest hurdle for refugees
Dilaver Omar plays the tamboor as he sits in his family's room at a Toronto hotel. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)More than 15,300 Syrians have arrived in Canada since the Liberals came to power, of which 8,859 are government-assisted, 5,426 privately sponsored and 1,081 a blend of the two programs. The influx has forced agencies in three cities to request a break in the action so they can hire extra staff and find permanent homes for those who have already arrived before any more are cleared to come to Canada. The federal government has said the flow will not be slowing down, but refugees already in Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa have been staying in hotels for longer than expected. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested private sponsors could temporarily house government-sponsored refugees currently living in hotels. But Ottawa found too many flaws in the proposal, saying the federal government has a duty of care over government-sponsored refugees, and that refugees shouldn't have to move to one home, only to move again soon after.
Realtor helping families at hotel
A sponsorship group formed of co-workers at the Lough Barnes Consulting Group has been waiting for months to be assigned a family, and has already figured out who will pick them up at the airport, stock the fridge and handle everything else that will come along with the mammoth task of settlement. In the meantime, however, they are flexible with helping whoever is in need, said Steve Lough, the company's managing director. He said they trust those in charge to know whether it's best to stick to the different refugee streams or to start some cross-pollination. "They're all in need. If they can come faster government sponsored, if we can get them settled faster with private, what difference does it make?" he said.
"All I do is dream about having a home."
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