By Laurena Zondo
Photos by Johnny C.Y. Lam
Behind her beautiful smile, lies a painful refugee journey. This is her story.
With just a small suitcase in hand, a young girl arrives all alone on Canada’s doorstep. It’s the final stop on the refugee highway for thousands of people each year – including unaccompanied youth like Elisée – fleeing conflict or persecution in their homeland and seeking asylum. But Canada has nothing in place to welcome or assist refugees who arrive without prior government approval. There is no one to greet them. They have no support in place and idea where to go or what to do next.
Elisée is one of the fortunate ones. An airport security guard recognizes her plight and gives her the number of Matthew House – a community of three homes in Toronto that provide shelter for newly-arrived refugee claimants.
Many refugees up spending their first night on the street or in a homeless shelter – susceptible to becoming abused or re-traumatized. In the weeks and months ahead, they also face an arduous, legal process; they struggle with loneliness, trauma, and fears of deportation. Less than half are successful in their claim to stay in Canada. Continue reading