‘The greatest gift’: Brampton man reunited with family stuck in Gaza

A Brampton, Ont., man who’s spent years separated from his family in Gaza is now making plans for their new life in Canada. 

Abdullah Alhamadni is part of a group of 11 refugees who have spouses and children in Gaza and have been pleading for the federal government to help them reunite.

Alhamadni met up with his wife and children in Egypt earlier this month. He was steeling himself to part ways again, when he got word Thursday that his family had been approved for temporary residency permits.

“I started jumping, jumping, jumping, jumping, hugging everyone in the home,” said Alhamadni, who is still in Egypt.

“It was the third day of the Eid al-Adha, and this is, for me, the greatest gift I got from God and from the Government of Canada.” 

Alhamadni has been living without his family in Canada since 2019. His refugee claim was approved last December.

Airport reunion

Alhamadni said it was a special moment when his family reunited in the Egyptian airport. At first, he said he felt like a stranger to his three boys, now aged 16, 13 and 11.

“There is a difference because of the distance and time,” he said. 

“I can’t stop looking and touching them, we have a group hug, we start screaming … it’s a big blessing from God.”

Abdallah Alhamadni (left) is pictured with his family at the Cairo International Airport. (Submitted by Abdallah Alhamadni)

Now that his family’s permits have been approved, Alhamadni wants the government to do the same for the other 10 families still awaiting news.

Matthew Behrens echoed the statement. Behrens has been working with Alhamadni and the other families in his group as coordinator of the Rural Refugee Rights Network. 

‘Just bring them over’

“It’s our hope that these permits will be issued for all of these families, that they will be reunited and that they can start the healing process,” said Behrens. 

“We’re talking about children who’ve been blown out of their homes, we’re talking about parents who are just suffering, having to be de facto single parents in Gaza — just bring them over now.”

CBC Toronto asked Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for an update on the families featured in its previous coverage of Alhamadni’s group, but did not immediately hear back. 

As for Alhamadni, he’s now at the beginning of another process: making travel arrangements and finding a new home for his family to live in, together, in Ontario. 

“I don’t want to stay for one moment without them,” he said. 

Abdallah Alhamadni (second from right) says he’s looking forward to starting a new life with his family in Canada. (Submitted by Matthew Behrens)

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