Abdifatah Sabriye has been a refugee for half his life.
From the moment he landed in Canada, he was home again, immediately a permanent resident.
“It used to be my dream and now it’s a reality,” he said upon arrival at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday night.
“I feel very excited and happy,” said Patricia Kamssor, also a former refugee and now a permanent resident in Canada.
They gained experience in healthcare in northern Kenya, working with a humanitarian aid organization within the refugee camp where they also lived, and are about to be continuing care assistants at a new nursing home in Mahone Bay, NS.
They have come to Canada through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot Program, a federal program that seeks to close the gap between displaced people and the labor shortage in this country.
As of June 30, 164 people (60 applicants and 104 of their dependents) had arrived in Canada in this way. They intended to reside in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia.
They had to meet the same requirements as traditional economic immigrants, including demonstrating health care experience and English proficiency.
Sabriye and Kamssor, both 30, were accepted in early 2021 but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues associated with the newness of the program.
Breaking: first met with Sabriye and Kamssor in March in the sprawling Kakuma refugee camp. At the time they had no idea when they would be able to come to Canada.
“There is nothing that makes me believe everything or know that I will go,” Kamssor said in an interview at his home inside the camp.
“Something might come up again.”
They arrived in Halifax, along with three other healthcare workers from the same camp, where a group of their new colleagues were waving Nova Scotia and Canadian flags and handing out Timbits.
They were hired by MacLeod Group Health Services, which operates seven nursing homes in Nova Scotia.
“We need them. We’re very excited to have them,” said Tina Hennigar, settlement coordinator for the MacLeod Group.
“Our other employees were waiting for them to come.”
The company has made a total of 57 conditional job offers through the program: 51 in Kenya and six in Jordan. In reality, only seven candidates have made it to Nova Scotia.
There have been improvements to the program since this group of candidates began the process.
Improvements to the program.
In June, the federal government created a new pathway to standardize eligibility criteria and streamline the process so there is only one application, allowing program candidates to avoid the primary application at the provincial level.
“We really hope this speeds up the process because we need health care workers here now,” said Jennifer L’Esperance, senior executive director of immigration and population growth at the Nova Scotia Department of Labor, Skills and Immigration.
He said the province also needs construction workers to build housing for health-care workers and other Nova Scotians as the province faces a housing crisis.
The MacLeod Group provides temporary housing for its new employees to rent until they settle in.
The federal government wants to expand the program to several sectors where there is a labor shortage, with the goal of settling 2,000 qualified refugees in the coming years.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the numbers are low because more awareness of the program’s benefits is needed among Canadian employers. The statement also says the department is “committed to improving arrival efficiency.”
Those who have arrived are already thinking about the day when their families will be able to join them, but for some it is already too late. His motivation was Sabriye’s brother Abdisamad, who was suffering from heart disease.
“When I came here, my main goal was to do heart surgery on him right away. But two weeks before coming here, he passed away,” Sabriye said.
As they loaded their luggage to head to their new home in a small coastal town, they were already focused on getting to work in the coming weeks.
“I promise we’ll do well,” Kamssor said. “We are going to cope well with the conditions in Canada.”
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