May 18, 2017 ·
By Constance Scrafield
Refugees arrive to safety and from dangers in many ways, very few of which are easy. This Monday evening, a married couple landed at Pearson Airport and were brought to Orangeville after a gruelling five years of waiting in Khartoum, Sudan after fleeing their homes in Eritrea.
While, for the past several years, the focus of the world has been on Syria, it is painful and hard to remember that there is similar suffering in many other countries and regions in the world. Eritrea, a small country on the northeast coast of Africa, has been named by the United Nations as having the worst human rights record in the world – which is saying a great deal. In addition, the country has been in conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia for years, which always causes chaos and losses for all concerned.
So, it was a real thrill to be on the spot, at the home of the Burnside family on Mono’s Second Line, to welcome Yohana and Tuem Teweld coming from Eritrea – at last.
It happened this way: Years ago, Kiflom Wehleab, once he escaped from Eritrea, came to Canada and, having earned his engineering degree, worked for R. J. Burnside Associates Limited in Orangeville and got to know the Burnside family. At one point, he went back to the Middle East to meet his wife-to-be, was kidnapped in Yemen, ransomed, got married in Bahrain and returned to Canada with his newlywed wife, all with the help of the Burnsides.
Then began the process of getting his brother Mesfin out of Eritrea. He, with his wife Fesseha, had managed to escape and to live through five years in Yemen, waiting and worrying for their papers to clear them to come here.
They made it, and Mesfin now cleans windows for a living and Fesseha does some cleaning, but they have three growing girls and a new baby.
“You wouldn’t believe how hard they work,” said Bob Burnside.
Now, this week, Fesseha’s brother Tuem and his wife Yohana, finally arrived after another five-year ordeal of paper work finally came to a happy conclusion.
Mr. Burnside wanted us to know that Dufferin-Caledon MP David Tilson was very helpful in the concluding of this exercise.
“..and Sandra, who works in the office, was really helpful about keeping us informed and re-assuring us that things were in the works,” he told us. “Although – can you believe it – at one time, they [Canadian officials] actually lost the file!”
Once the process with the Canadian government was in hand, Tuem got married and his new wife, Yohana, became another part of the process.
The two of them made their perilous way out of Eritrea into Sudan (“Imagine if you’re fleeing to Sudan how bad things must be..” Mr. Burnside commented.)
However, although they arrived to a UN “camp” in Sudan, they didn’t stay there.