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Orphaned Somali Refugees Arrive at Last

17-year-old Fathi was no doubt overjoyed to receive his ten younger siblings and little niece at the Winnipeg airport on Thursday. Fathi, who is ethnically Somali but has grown up in Saudi Arabia, was orphaned when his father, who worked for the Somalian consulate in Saudi, died. After learning that his siblings and he were stripped of their legal status and to be deported back to Somalia, the oldest made a daring journey across the world, walking to Winnipeg from the Emerson boarder crossing.

After being accepted in Winnipeg as a refugee in October of 2014, Fathi spent the next year fighting to bring his siblings to Canada as well. The children do not speak Somali and had they been sent back to Somalia, where they do not have citizenship, their future in the tumultuous state would have been precarious and uncertain. After many setbacks and disappointments, the group arrived on January 14 with the help of Hospitality House, the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, and others.

An unprecedented story in Canadian refugee resettlement, the group of 12 will be living at St. John’s Cathedral’s Hospitality House (run by the organization of the same name), and cared for by a foster mother from Manitoba Child and Family Services.

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A group of students from the General Wolfe School Human Rights Club waits to welcome the children at the Winnipeg Airport on Thursday

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A large contingent of reporters surprised airport arrivals as they gathered in anticipation of the refugees

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The children, aged 8-16 as well as a baby, arrive to the coldest day of their lives in their new home

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Little Kinda, who has never worn a coat before, is very unsure about her new winter clothing

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Gail Schnabl, the Refugee Coordinator for the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, holds a welcome sign with Tom Denton, the Executive Director of Hospitality House

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Fathi waits with one of his younger brothers for their luggage

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The children are tired and camera-shy after the trip of their lives, but happy to be safe in Winnipeg at last