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Kitchener, Ont. man trying to get 19 family members out of Gaza


Hazim Almasri is desperate to get his family out of Gaza.

“Every time I call [my sister] she’s crying. She’s afraid she will lose her kids,” said Almasri, a Palestinian-Canadian who lives in Kitchener, Ont.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, he’s been making every effort to reunite with his 19 family members, 14 of them children, currently living in the besieged Palestinian territory.

“What they have been through is unimaginable,” Almasri said.

He’s raised more than $50,000 through an online fundraiser to help cover the costs and submitted applications through the temporary visa program offered by the federal government.

Now he’s waiting to find out if his loved ones will be among those allowed into Canada.

The federal government initially said only 1,000 Palestinians would be issued temporary visas through the program, which began taking application on Jan. 9.

The move drew criticism from those who pointed out Ottawa had no cap to assist Ukrainians in 2022 when Russia invaded their country.

Canada’s Minister of Immigration later said the 1,000-person limit was not a hard cap.

Hazim Almasri's family in Gaza during happier times. (Supplied)

Almasri said the temporary program was “something like hope” after months of uncertainty and fear, but the wait has been agonizing and he wants Canada to do more.

His mother, three siblings, uncle and the 14 children are only able to eat one meal a day and are kept up each night by relentless bombing, he said.

“I wake up at night, I open my phone, I might get a text message and what they send is just ‘we are okay, we are alive.’”

With no idea how long the visa processing time will take – or if some, or all, of his family members will even be accepted – Almasri is left waiting, knowing each day they stay in Gaza and Israeli bombardment continues, they’re in danger.

"I'm very worried that maybe they got the 1,000 people, like it's just 50 or 60 Canadians who will be able to bring their families, but what about the other people?"

Damage from bombing is seen outside the family home. (Supplied)

Almasri will also have to show he can financially support his family members, which inspired him to start the online fundraiser.

He said the support he’s received has been heartwarming.

"It made me feel like, yes, with the power of community, we can do anything we can help each other," he said, adding any excess funds not used toward his family's emergency relocation will be donated to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund.

Almasri has also written to Kitchener-Centre MP Mike Morrice for help.

In a statement, Morrice said, in part: “While I'm glad the federal government has created this temporary visa program, it's a fraction of what myself and others were calling for on behalf of concerned community members."

The temporary visa program is for three years, at which point Almasri hopes his family members will be able to return home.

“Within those three years everything will end and they can go back and live in Gaza in a very peaceful place." Top Stories

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