Four years ago, Majd Agha fled Syria after the outbreak of civil war. After many attempts to settle elsewhere, Agha arrived in Vancouver just over a year ago as a refugee through the United Nations’ Refugee Agency.
Agha has worked hard to rebuild his life in Canada. He is currently enrolled in bioinformatics courses at Langara College and works part-time.
However, Agha’s family remains in Syria and he only gets to speak with them every once in a while due to roaming power outages and the ever present danger in the region.
Three months ago, Agha applied for tourist visas for his mother and sister in the hope that they would be able to visit him, but that application was denied.
Agha said the image of Alan Kurdi, the toddler who drowned along with his four-year-old brother and their mother when their small rubber boat capsized as it headed for Greece, has haunted the world this week.
But while speaking with CKNW’s Simi Sara, Agha told said he could show her “thousands of the same pictures” and that he doesn’t understand why it took this tragic photo to get the western world to finally start paying attention to the crisis.
“It should have been given more attention since… four years ago,” he said. “Unfortunately what I feel when I see the attention on the Canadian matter, it feels like [the politicians are] only giving it attention because of the election that is happening right now.”
“It’s so sad that after seeing this kid… suddenly the whole world wakes up… when… thousands of kids are dying the same instance every single day.”
While speaking with Simi, Agha said that he knows that Canada can’t help everyone, but when compared to the efforts of some other countries, Agha feels Canada could do more. As an example, he cited the efforts being made by Germany.
“Look at the German Chancellor. She said [Germany] is ready to take one million Syrian refugees,” he said.
“Germany is not even as big as Canada and they have… triple the population of what Canada has right now. I mean, if Canada can do something, I’m pretty sure they can do more than at least what Germany is doing.”
Agha also spoke with Simi about his frustration regarding the length of time that it’s taking for the Canadian government to accept the promised 10,000 Syrian refugees.
“Until 2017 you are planning to get 10,000 refugees to Canada. I can guarantee to you that 30,000 refugees will die until then.”
Many CKNW listeners have called in or written about their outrage over the fact that Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have decided to not accept any refugees.
As Amnesty International recently pointed out, the “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.”
“We are absolutely shocked at what [the Middle Eastern countries are doing],” Agha said. “A few days ago, I heard… [a Kuwaiti official] saying why they could not accept refugees. ‘Kuwait is expensive… moving is very expensive.’ What are you talking about? You are richer than Canada, than Germany… you have the money of the whole world there.”
Agha also spoke with Simi about the misconception that refugees simply want to leave their home country for a better like in Canada.
“I honestly… never in my entire life expected myself to be in Canada… until UNHCR… said our application is accepted in Canada, I was kind of surprised… Nobody wants to go and start a life in a different country. It can be extremely hard.”