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Edmonton man worried about limited application slots for bringing family from war-torn Sudan

Modathir Bashir, an Edmontonian originally from Sudan, is facing a heartbreaking dilemma. He desperately wants to help his sisters get out of war-torn Sudan but can only afford to bring one of them — and her four children — to Canada.

The east African country has been embroiled in a civil war since April 2023 after clashes between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces threatened a planned transition to a civilian government.

Bashir has five sisters. One lives in Calgary. Three have managed to flee Sudan to Egypt and Oman but one is still stuck in the eastern part of Sudan. Bashir said she had to flee within the country twice as the war kept reaching her.

“They are somewhat safe but I don’t think they are completely safe at this time,” he said.

Although Canada’s federal government has created a program to allow Bashir and other Canadians to bring their families here, the applications are capped at 3,250.

“It is not enough,” Bashir told CBC’s Edmonton AM on Wednesday. 

Canada is home to 17,485 people of Sudanese origin, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census Profile.

Bashir, who works with the Sudanese Cultural League of Edmonton, believes most, if not all will be trying to get their family members out of harm’s way.

LISTEN | Not enough applications for those fleeing Sudan war:

Edmonton AM7:08Ottawa has a new immigation pathway for Sudanese residents fleeing civil war

Canada is about to welcome thousands of people trying to flee the civil war in Sudan. A new humanitarian pathway has opened for people in the East African country to be reunited with family already settled in Canada. But some advocates say the program falls short. Modathir Bashir is a member of the Sudanese Cultural League of Edmonton.

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told CBC in an email that intake caps are “standard practice in public policies” and based on a number of factors, including available resources and other available immigration pathways.

The federal government announced the program last month. It came into effect on Tuesday and will last one year.

Applications are open to children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents and siblings of Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Each application is for an individual and their immediate family members only. 

Bashir said besides the limited number of applications, he and others hoping to help relatives get out of Sudan are also bound by the financial requirements

The application fee for each individual is $570 for adults and $155 for a dependent child.

On top of that, applicants are expected to earn a certain salary — for four people it’s roughly $51,000 — and if they don’t make that much money they are expected to have $9,900 in savings for each person they are applying for. 

There are also fees for things like biometric collection, where individuals prove their identity via fingerprints and photos.

“I won’t be able to bring them all because I cannot afford it,” Bashir said of his sisters.

He is working on applying for one of his sisters to come to Canada via the federal government program. She and her children are currently in Egypt, he said.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR) estimates the war has displaced nine million people inside Sudan, and forced another 1.7 million people to flee the country. 

Bashir said he is grateful to the Canadian government for creating the program but it would really help the thousands trying to bring their families safely home to change the application process. 

“We ask the government to increase the amount of applicants as well as waive the application fees,” he said. 

He would also like the Canadian government to play a role within the international community to help end the war. 

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