Syrian refugee family cleared for arrival in Calgary

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) helps family start a new life in Canada. 

Edmonton (20 Oct. 2016) — They’re finally on their way.

The family of Syrian refugees that Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) is sponsoring to come to Canada has been cleared by the Canadian government and will arrive in Calgary between October 25 and 27.

The news came on October 7, and the rush began to find them a home and furnish it.

HSAA/NUPGE prepares to welcome new family 

“This sure doesn’t give us a lot of time but, together, we will make it happen,” says Faika Satterthwaite, chair of HSAA’s Social Justice Committee, which began the process of the union’s sponsorship.

Indeed, Satterthwaite and Ayed Saad, another member of the Social Justice Committee have already found a rental house in north Calgary and are now gathering everything they need to turn it into a home — the first real home the family of 4 will have had since fleeing Damascus when the war in Syria began.

Life for refugee family unimaginably difficult

The family members are Alaadeen Ghra, a 33-year-old who worked as a truck driver in Damascus, his 27-year-old wife ,Majida Al Mazlom, who had to abandon her studies to become an architect because of the war, and their two sons, Khairedeen aged five-and-a-half, and Joudeddin, aged two-and-a-half.

Tragically, the family lost a daughter who was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon. “Her death was attributed to lack of proper medication and poor nutrition,” says Saad.

Their lives as refugees have been more difficult than most of us can imagine. They left Damascus when rockets and bombs began falling on houses in their community. As the conflict raged between the Syrian government and rebel forces, they feared being killed by both sides.

Canada provides opportunity to start over

They were on the move for a year within Syria, sometimes sleeping on the ground in winter. They spent weeks at the border with Lebanon before being allowed to enter as refugees, to settle in a crowded refugee centre.

Later, the family was allowed to leave the refugee centre and moved into a basement, but employment opportunities were limited. No matter what qualifications a refugee holds in Lebanon, he or she is limited only to jobs at the lowest wages, such as janitorial or construction work.

“On top of this, they live without basic health care, a lack of sanitation and are continually harassed verbally and physically if they complain to the United Nations (UN) or other human-rights organizations about their situation,” says Saad.

The family’s arrival in Calgary will signal the beginning of a new, safer life.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE