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Edmonton’s Eritrean community worries other refugees being ignored

Canada's immigration minister remains confident the government will meet its target to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February. But members of Edmonton's Eritrean community are worried the response to the crisis in Syria

Canada’s immigration minister remains confident the government will meet its target to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February.

But members of Edmonton’s Eritrean community are worried the response to the crisis in Syria means refugees from their homeland will be forced to wait even longer.

In his Edmonton home, Gerezgiher Hailu flips through pictures of his sister, Almaz, her husband and their seven children. The family has been been living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for the past five years.

“I really really miss them,” Hailu said. “They are waiting.”

A United Nations inquiry in June reported human rights violations in Eritrea. The report said many people there are subjected to forced labour or imprisonment under a totalitarian state. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled the country.

Zedingle Gahebremasse of the Edmonton Eritrean Association said he applauds Canadian efforts to help Syrian refugees. But he worries Eritreans risk being ignored as a result.

“Eritreans are abandoned,” said Gahebremasse. “Some of their files are over five years old.”

He said he knows of people who filed their paperwork in 2009 and 2010.

“Some have arrived but others haven’t heard yet, so they’re not giving them enough attention,” he said.

“I feel frustration and I feel a lot of frustration from community members. Many Eritreans are dying crossing the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean.”

Eritrea is one of Africa’s newest states. It was formed in 1991 after breaking away from Ethiopia following three decades of war. The United Nations commission said 5,000 Eritrean refugees flee the country each month, and many have settled in camps in neighbouring Ethiopia and Sudan.

“Syrians do need help,” said Gahebremasse. “But so do many other community organizations that want refugees and family members to be fast-tracked.”

“Not just Eritreans are being ignored. Sudanese, Somalis, Ethiopians.”

A spokesperson for the Citizenship and Immigration department said the Syrian refugee crisis is the priority now. But Canada expects 4,000 refugees from Eritrea and South Sudan to arrive by 2019.

CBC News

Review overview
  • wedemoy sara December 26, 2015

    እዚ ስእሉ ኣብ ላዕሊ ዘሎ ዘድንግል ፣ንሱ ይኹን ብዓልቲ ቤቱ ንኽመርሑ ዝፈጠሩ ትኩራት ሰባት እዮም፣ ቀደም እታ ናይ ሻዕብያ ዘይኮነት ኮሙኒቲ ክመርሕ እንከሎ እቶም ኣብታ ናይ ሻዕብያ ኮምዩኒቲ ኮይኖም ነታ ሓቀኛ ኮሙኒቲና ዘናሽዉ ዝነበሩ ነዚ ሓው ምስ ቤተሰቡ ብምኽንያት ኣውራጃኡ ፈልዮም ይወቕጥዎ ኔሮም። ግን ሕጂ ንሳቶም እውን ኮርዮም ካብ መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ርሒቖም ይርከቡ። ንህዝቢ ኤርትራ ሓልዮም ዘይኮነስ ካብ ከባቢኦም ብዙሕ ሰብ ክእሰር ስለ ዝጀመረ ።ሕጂ ኤድመንተን ገዲፈ ሳንድያጎ ካብ ዝኣቱ ዓሰርተ ሰለስተ ዓመተይ ስለ ዝኾነ ኩነታት ኣይፈልጥን።ግን ጽቡቕ እትምነየሎም።.

    • CJ December 28, 2015

      Grow up

    • lezeben December 30, 2015

      Wedemoy Sara, a good observation indeed brother. They are all now opposing the criminal higdef regime when it ( the punishment & abusement) started knocking on their doors and families mercelessely. I wish good luck and good health for Mr Zedingle.

  • Berhe Tenesea December 27, 2015

    The Canadian immigration minister and prime ministers are a confused people who can not understand the situation of refugees around the world. Eritrean refugees were fleeing from war with Ethiopian and now from brutal dictator in Africa.
    They have seen people dying in deserts and the sea , and their organs being stolen, but did nothing.
    They know people are suffering in Ethiopia and Sudan, even to sponsor family members was and is hard..
    People in central African republic have suffered a lot but the Canadian government did nothing at all , let alone bring them to Canada.
    The immigration minister and the immature prime minister need to grow up up and be sensitive to African refugees.
    Eritreans living in Canada need to educate and remind the officials to show a little understanding and compassion to the plight of our refugees, by writing letters and participating in demos.

  • Emba Denden December 27, 2015

    Why should Canadian Government care about Eritreans. Because most of the Eritreans who claim themselves as refuges end up supporting their brutal leader back home once they landed and settled in their host countries. The Canadian Governnent shall forget about Eritrean refuges bcause the Eritreans themselves forgot their oneself.

  • yons December 27, 2015

    i don’t think Syrian problem and Eritrean problem can be comparable. problems can’t be solved by relocating people, but by creating peace in the location. the Canadian government and people i know them supporting Eritreans for the last 40 years. time for Syrians now.

  • Berhe Tenesea December 27, 2015

    You have a good point , and that may be a contributing factor so as not to care and bring Eritreans to Canada.
    I remember that some people were also asking to check the files of Eritrean asylum seekers, who were participating in the dictators ghayla and dankera while claiming to be brutalized in their application.
    The former Canadian government fully knows that Eritrea is under dictatorship , but this government now needs to be reminded.
    People need to wake up and do something like Gherezghiher.
    Good job ghere.

  • abrham December 27, 2015

    Syrians they are flying b/CE of war buy for us we are flying to run awey of the dictator who is turturing our mam dad bro and sister who they can’t get out of his hand.So how can we dream best life when we have a family(country) in the worst situation. For me I will be very happy if the whole world send us back to our country.Because that is the right time to remind us that we only are
    the ones to bring back our freedom instead of flying like dogs

    • Berhe Tenesea December 28, 2015

      Thank you for your excellent point.

      • Adulis December 29, 2015

        Who cares Abraham. Eritrea will never go anywhere. And, of course there will no aruler stays for Hundred years unless he is not denied the chance of replacong his offspring in his place.
        What is gone never come back again. We have sold our freedom for cheap personal interests. We blame nobody but ourselved.

  • Aman December 30, 2015

    This is awakening point/situation to Eritreans to side either by their “GOD – Esseyas Afwerki” or besides their people …brothers, sisters and even parents whose internal organs being stolen, exchanged for rundsome of money while alive not even comparable to goat/sheep.

    All the tortures and sufferings which the Eritreans directly reflects the stuppidity of all Eritreans who whorship Esseyas. We didn’t fight for 30 years to be slaves of Essayas but to live freely and with diginity.

    Wakeup Stupids !!!!!!!!!!!!! Tezareb!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Erikunuk December 30, 2015

    Good job Z!!! Proud of you!!!

  • Wedi Blata January 4, 2016

    Late me tell you fact we cannot change the policy of ERT by talking or writing comments. We cant fight to our right we cant defend our self there is some thing to this people some thing inside we cannot see it.The people only can change i don’t thing from out side will see result. So don’t waste your time