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The younger girl’s first actual hope that she may survive the nightmare she endured within the Gaza Strip got here on the identical evening she was certain that she and her household can be killed.

Late final 12 months, Canada promised it might assist carry prolonged relations of residents out of the besieged territory. However by final month, delays robbed the 20-year-old girl of any religion the Canadian authorities would assist her household go away.

Because the weeks went on, she and her family lived below close to fixed bombardment, she stated. On days after they couldn’t discover canned meals, grownup relations opted to go hungry so youngsters may keep fed.

In mid-February, their fortunes modified. Her identify, together with the names of her relations, appeared on an inventory of these authorized to cross the border into Egypt.

The Canadian authorities had nothing to do with it.

In an act of desperation, the younger girl’s household in Canada paid greater than $70,000 to a non-public firm to barter the exit with Egyptian and Israeli officers.

The information had her household actually leaping for pleasure that evening.

However inside hours, worry reigned because the Rafah area, thought of the final comparatively secure place within the territory, was hit with a large bombardment of Israeli airstrikes.

The doorways and home windows had been blown out of the one-room residence the place the younger girl slept alongside 40 girls and youngsters.

They made it by the evening, and when the solar began to rise, the household gathered what little they’d and cautiously made their approach to the border.

The concept that she was leaving her life behind didn’t really feel actual till she was on a bus. Subsequent, they might all be beginning anew in Canada, which was certain to problem her household a visa now that they’d escaped. Or so she thought.

“We thought the one problem can be to get out of Gaza, after which it might be simple,” the younger girl stated in Arabic by a translator. The Canadian Press agreed to not identify her for worry of reprisal from Egyptian or Canadian authorities.

“Our solely hope is to go to Canada,” she implored.

However that hope is almost dashed.

She and the remainder of her household haven’t heard from the Canadian authorities about visas, at the same time as their authorized standing in Egypt is about to run out in days.

Within the meantime, the relations can’t work or entry medical care. They’re being supported fully by their family overseas, who already paid exorbitant sums to get them out of hazard.

The uncertainty has left these in Canada feeling duped.

“They fooled us,” stated the lady’s aunt, who lives in Canada and has been working to carry her family to security because the struggle broke out on Oct. 7. The Canadian Press agreed to not identify the aunt for worry of figuring out the household.

She stated the Immigration Division charged charges to use for this system Ottawa introduced in December, however she has seen little proof of something Canada has accomplished to truly assist her household.

“There’s a massive query mark in regards to the degree of effort that Canada is placing on this program,” she stated.

“They only make excuses.”

The federal government launched a program in January to supply short-term visas to as many as 1,000 Palestinians within the Gaza Strip who’ve prolonged household in Canada, on the situation that their households help them after they arrive.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has been vocal about his frustration at Canada’s impotence with regards to facilitating the crossing of authorized relations into Egypt.

He didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark in regards to the delays skilled by individuals who managed to flee on their very own.

The federal government received’t say how many individuals have utilized to this system, which affords short-term refuge to folks, grandparents, siblings and grandchildren of Canadian residents and everlasting residents. The spouses and youngsters of these prolonged relations are additionally eligible.

As of March 4, 986 functions have been accepted into processing. Solely 12 of these individuals have made it out of Gaza, completed the screening course of and been authorized to return to Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada stated in an announcement.

The struggle started after Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing an estimated 1,200 individuals and taking about 240 hostages.

Israel swiftly retaliated with airstrikes and an eventual floor assault in a battle that has killed greater than 30,000 Palestinians, in line with Hamas-run Well being Ministry in Gaza.

The struggle has pushed 80 per cent of Gaza’s inhabitants of two.3 million Palestinians from their properties, and United Nations officers say 1 / 4 of the inhabitants is ravenous.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Debbie Rachlis says she represents not less than 50 Palestinians in Egypt who managed to flee with out Canada’s assist and are ready for a Canadian visa. She’s conscious of roughly 100 comparable instances being dealt with by different legal professionals, she stated.

“The heartbreaking half is the individuals who won’t be able to get out as a result of their relations don’t have the sorts of sources or don’t have these kinds of connections,” Rachlis stated.

Individuals who left earlier than they completed the Canadian utility course of fear they might not qualify, she stated.

Rani Hemaid paid hundreds of {dollars} to a non-public firm for what he describes as bribes to get his dad and mom, brother, nieces and nephews out of Gaza to Cairo in December, the place they’re now working out of cash and hoping for any phrase from the Canadian authorities.

Since they arrived earlier than Canada’s visa program opened, it’s not clear in the event that they nonetheless qualify, he stated.

In Gaza Metropolis, his sister, her husband and their 5 youngsters are additionally ready as they face fixed hazard from navy strikes and hunger, Hemaid stated.

His nephew, Yamin, is simply 10 and has a damaged leg that can not be handled as a result of there aren’t any hospitals left standing, he stated.

Yamin apologized to his mom just lately for ever being choosy about meals, his uncle stated.

“‘I might eat any meals you present me now,’” Hemaid quoted, his voice filled with emotion as he spoke from his residence in Hamilton, Ont.

Hemaid was one in all many Palestinian Canadians who advocated for a particular immigration program to carry the prolonged households of Canadians to security.

When the visa program first opened, individuals referred to as him to thank him for his advocacy, saying their households would lastly be secure, he stated.

Now they name him to say they wished it by no means opened — that the false hope has crushed them.

“We have a look at it, as Palestinian Canadians, that the Canadian authorities has scammed us, has fooled us,” he stated. “They don’t care about us.”

He stated he worries Palestinians will keep in Gaza, risking hunger and demise, as a result of there may be a lot uncertainty in regards to the Canadian visa program.

It’s not clear who can be accepted, or how lengthy it is going to take. Many don’t have the cash to dwell day-to-day in uncertainty in Cairo, with no revenue, staying in lodges or renting rooms from Airbnb.

“I’m simply so determined. I’m so hopeless,” he stated.

The principles stipulate that prolonged relations making use of to this system should be in Gaza on the date of their utility, stated Yaman Marwah, an Ottawa-based immigration lawyer.

Canada has supplied no revenue or settlement helps to relations who’re granted a visa, nor did the federal government waive utility charges that complete about $185 per particular person, Marwah stated.

These making use of on behalf of their households needed to signal a type promising they weren’t on welfare and that they might cowl all prices.

Marwah stated he’s unsure which is healthier: “Giving individuals hope that there could also be a method out and having them combat for it, like Canada did — or not giving them hope from the outset, and telling them, ‘You recognize what? We will’t make it easier to.’”

The younger girl in Egypt stated she feels luckier than these nonetheless left behind in Gaza.

Small indulgences like working water and a bag of chips really feel like a dream, she stated, including she needs nothing greater than to renew her common life.

“This hope is on the shoulders of the Canadian authorities,” she stated.

By Laura Osman and Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed March 11, 2024.

— With recordsdata from The Related Press.

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