Maritime Syrian community reeling amid earthquake destruction

In just over a week, Zein Al abdin and his family will mark seven years since they moved to Saint John, N.B.

But as the pictures of destruction pour out of his home country of Syria, he can’t help but feel somewhat useless.

“It’s breaking my heart, but I have nothing to do. Here in Canada, I have nothing to do,” Al abdin told Global News on Friday.

Though the Al abdin family moved to Canada for safety reasons, many of their relatives remain in cities across Syria.

It was one of the main countries, along with Turkey, rocked by two earthquakes, which left a path of destruction. As searches continue through the rubble, the death toll has risen into the thousands.

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According to Al abdin, while his family is safe, the earthquakes have taken everything they own.

“No home, no cover, no power, no food, no clothes, even — nothing,” he said.

As the owner of a Saint John restaurant called Mashawi Zein, he’s tried to raise money to help his family and other survivors.

However, sanctions have meant social media and GoFundMe fundraisers have been removed, he said. As result, he’s sent his own resources, which are “minimal” at best and can take over a week to arrive.

He noted using politics to “deal with human needs,” means countries are not approaching the issue “in the right way.” He’s now begun to take donations in his Uptown restaurant to help support Syrians in need.

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Meanwhile, the disaster has reinforced the urgent need to assist refugees in that region. After sponsoring a Syrian woman to come to Canada years ago, the Wolfville Refugee Support Network is working to bring her brother to Nova Scotia.

Chair Kate Sircom told Global News about Nahed, a single mother who went on to study in Canada and work in the financial industry, and was joined by her mother in 2019.

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That same year, her brother Muhammed submitted his application, but has not yet been approved.

As a result of the earthquake, Nahed’s three brothers, who now live in Turkey, are sleeping in a park. Her sister, who was in a building at the time of the earthquake, has died.

“At this time, when Nahed’s seeing the tragedy that’s unfolding in Turkey, and she’s alone here with her mom, she would really love to have her family with her,” Sircom said.

Speaking with her MP, Sircom said they are working to make Muhammed’s application deemed urgent. She believes across the country, there are probably many other organizations in the same predicament.

“What we would like to see is for any refugees who are already in the system, who are waiting for applications to be processed, who are in an area particularly affected by this earthquake, that there be some way to mark these as urgent.”

Click to play video: 'Turkey earthquake victim rescued after posting video from under rubble'

Turkey earthquake victim rescued after posting video from under rubble

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