Canada Syrian couple separated by U.S. travel ban reunited in Toronto

01:05  18 june  2017
01:05  18 june  2017 Source:   Toronto Star

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A Pennsylvania couple says their Syrian relatives were denied entrance to the United States on Saturday although they had visas in hand after a 13-year effort following President Donald Trump' s travel ban on refugees.(The Associated Press).

After receiving the visa two weeks ago, he was supposed to finally travel to reunite with her in the United States a year after their wedding in Syria . Lamia, 22, lives in New York city by herself after her American father and Syrian mother separated . “I’m so confused.


Khaled Almilaji and his wife Jehan Mouhsen, reunited after six months apart, after landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Friday. © Carlos Osorio Khaled Almilaji and his wife Jehan Mouhsen, reunited after six months apart, after landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Friday. In January, Khaled Almilaji’s face was on news websites and papers around the world, symbolizing the chaos and heartache following U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven predominantly Muslim countries.

A short aid mission in Turkey at the border of his native Syria left the 35-year-old doctor in limbo. He was refused re-entry into the U.S., where he was pursuing a post-graduate public health degree and had a pregnant wife waiting for him to come home to Rhode Island.

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Almost six months after his departure on Jan. 1, Almilaji was reunited with his wife Friday night in Canada, eager to continue his interrupted post-graduate study in public health at the University of Toronto.

The agonizing 174-day separation was stretched about an hour and a half longer at Pearson airport, as Almilaji’s wife waited anxiously for him to clear customs, craning her neck to get a better view past the sliding doors of the arrival hall gate.

“It had been a very stressful and bad experience, not knowing what’s going on. We are just excited the ordeal is finally over,” said Jehan Mouhsen, while waiting for her husband in Terminal 1.

“Khaled and I had a great experience in the U.S. We met a lot of American friends and many were trying to help us. We have no grievances against Americans,” said Mouhsen, a 26-year-old general medical physician whose baby is due in August.

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“But the travel ban was just so unnecessary and unfair. We are glad Canada and U of T have stepped up. It’s a great relief.”

After catching sight of her smiling husband, Mouhsen quickly shuffled over to the edge of arrival ramp and right into Almilaji’s arms.

The coupled held onto each other, both tearing up and swaying side to side. Before they unlocked their embrace, Almilaji placed his hand on Mouhsen’s belly, well concealed beneath a flowing pale green top.

His first order of business: “Catching up with my wife!”

“I’m really excited. Finally, six months!” Almilaji laughed.

Almilaji, an otolaryngologist, said his first priority is his country, which he hopes to serve through his studies.

“I’m glad that I get the chance to improve my knowledge, and one day I can go back to our country and help with rebuilding the health system there,” he said. “I think the University of Toronto gave me another chance after we lost that chance in the U.S. I’m so grateful.”

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Almilaji was well-known in humanitarian aid circles in Turkey and Syria for saving lives, vaccinating children from polio and treating prisoners tortured by the Bashar Assad regime during Syria’s ongoing civil war.

Along with two Canadian physicians working on the ground in Turkey, Almilaji helped established the Canadian International Medical Relief Organization in 2012 to provide medical support and treatment to displaced Syrians by sneaking through the border.

During a polio outbreak in a rebel-controlled area in Syria in 2013, Almilaji led a vaccination campaign in the conflict zone.

He and other volunteers risked their lives, smuggling medical supplies through government checkpoints, and ultimately immunizing 1.3 million children.

In 2014, Mouhsen, a Syrian born in Montenegro, and Almilaji were introduced by a mutual friend and got married in July 2016 in Germany, where Almilaji’s family members are in exile.

A month after their wedding, the couple arrived at Brown University’s campus in Providence on Almilaji’s scholarship.

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«» (Published Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017). A North Texas couple separated by President Donald Trump’ s executive order restricting travel from seven countries was reunited Sunday evening.

(WOOD) — A reunion years in the making unfolded at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Wednesday. Syrian refugees Zane Shami and his mother kissed each other moments after she stepped But those plans were delayed when President Donald Trump issued a temporary travel ban .

Almilaji was on his way to return to the U.S. on Jan. 7 from Turkey when he was barred from boarding the flight because his multiple-entry student visa had been revoked for reasons that aren’t clear.

Through help from senators in Rhode Island and Brown University, Almilaji returned to the U.S. embassy in Turkey on Jan. 20 to apply for a new visa.

It was a week before Trump’s executive order of the first travel ban that barred people from seven majority-Muslim countries — including Syria — from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

When Trump’s executive orders took effect on Jan. 27, Almilaji suddenly became the poster boy for the infamous ban and his story, as reported by The Associated Press, spread around the world.

Almilaji’s application for a new student visa was denied. Although Trump’s travel bans have since been halted by American courts, the damage has been done for many travellers from those countries, keeping families apart, including Almilaji and Mouhsen.

Professor Howard Hu, dean of U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said he was contacted by Dr. Terrie Fox Wetle, his counterpart at Brown University, in February when it became apparent that Almilaji would have to look outside the U.S. to complete his studies.

With private donors, U of T raised enough money to pay for the couple’s living expenses while the university administration agreed to waive Almilaji’s tuition. The Aleppo native will pick up his post-graduate studies on health informatics this summer.

“We are delighted with the outcome,” said Hu. “This is very much aligned with our value in terms of human rights and supporting the training of an individual who will and can make a difference in public health.”

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Source: http://ca.pressfrom.com/news/canada/-32655-syrian-couple-separated-by-u-s-travel-ban-reunited-in-toronto/

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