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Canadian volunteers pretend to be tourists, but shop for Syrian and Iraqi refugees

Canadian volunteers secretly interview migrants in Jordan. A lucky few will make it to Canada

In Jordan, a group of Canadian volunteers secretly interview desperate migrants. With their blessing, a lucky few will make it to Canada.

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Ildy Sziladi, Linda Raffin, Martin Mark, Christine Ignas, Jamie Forget, Donald Igbokwe Front row: Pauline Murphy and Alexandra Whittle. They travelled to Amman, Jordan to select Syrian and Iraqi refugees for Canada's private sponsorship program. Mark, director, Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto, led the mission.

MARINA JIMENEZ

Ildy Sziladi, Linda Raffin, Martin Mark, Christine Ignas, Jamie Forget, Donald Igbokwe Front row: Pauline Murphy and Alexandra Whittle. They travelled to Amman, Jordan to select Syrian and Iraqi refugees for Canada’s private sponsorship program. Mark, director, Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto, led the mission.

By: Marina Jimenez Foreign Affairs Writer, Published on Sat Oct 31 2015

AMMAN, JORDAN—They look like any other group of tourists, with cameras slung around their necks, and water bottles and guidebooks stuffed in their backpacks. This is a disguise they will work scrupulously to maintain.

If word were to leak out that these eight Canadians — the only Canadian group in the trenches — are here to select refugees to come to Canada, their modest $30-a-night downtown Amman hotel could suddenly become a target for every refugee in the city. Their two-week mission would be in jeopardy, and could result in their immediate expulsion.

They remain low-key, working behind closed doors in a hotel room, and later, in offices at the Jesuit Centre, using volunteer Sudanese translators, who are themselves refugees.

“We are the voice of the voiceless,” said Pauline Murphy, 58 and a lay pastoral associate from St. Anthony of Padua parish in Brampton. “We would like to scoop up all the refugees and bring them to Canada, but we know it is just not possible.”

Being selected is like winning the lottery. Just one per cent of the 630,000 Syrian refugees and about five per cent of the 50,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan stand a chance of being resettled in the West. The rest are expected to wait out the war, and then return to their homelands.

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