Yukon College welcomes Syrian student refugee

WHITEHORSE—Exhausted and hopeful, Tareef Jaamour arrived at Yukon College this week after a 36-hour flight from Amman, Jordan.

Jaamour has immigrated to Canada through the World University Service Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program. Students and staff and at Yukon College have raised $20,000 since November 2015 to help support Jaamour in his first year as a permanent resident.

“I am incredibly grateful for all the work it has taken to help me reach Canada,” said Jaamour. “Everyone has been amazing and I am excited to begin my studies and my new life here in Whitehorse.”

24-year-old Jaamour was born and has lived as a refugee all his life. His father was forced to flee Syria in the 1980’s and after spending time in Dubai, settled his family in Jordan where they lived peacefully in asylum for almost 20 years. Everything changed for the Jaamour family when the current Syrian civil war began in 2011.

“Attitudes have shifted dramatically. Syrians are no longer welcome in Jordan. It does not matter that I have lived there all my life. Businesses can no longer hire Syrians, the justice system does not protect Syrians if an accusation is made by a Jordanian,” said Jaamour.

Jaamour began a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Jordan in 2010, but since graduating last year has been unable to start his career. He applied to the WUSC program in 2015 and spent a year waiting to discover if he would be accepted and make it through the immigration process.

After saying goodbye to his parents and younger siblings at the airport, Jordanian officials told him he could never return to that country.

“I am not sure when I will see my family again. I am not sure what they will do, my parents are reluctant to leave but there is no future for Syrians in Jordan, or any neighbouring country.”

Jaamour has spent this first week getting to know his new home. Next, he must pass Yukon College entrance exams and would like to enrol in the Business Administration diploma program.

“I feel very welcome in Whitehorse. Everyone is very friendly. It already feels like more of a home than Jordan. I do not feel like a second-class citizen in Canada.”

The Yukon College WUSC Committee would like to thank the following organisations for supporting the first student refugee at Yukon College through cash or in-kind donations: PSAC Yukon Regional Youth Committee, PSAC Yukon Area Council, Yukon College Student Union, Yukon College, PSAC/YEU Local Y011 (Yukon College), Islamic Relief Canada, Rotary Club of Whitehorse, Yukon College students and staff, and generous donors who attended fundraising events.

The Committee would also like to thank Yukon Cares for providing guidance and support as the College experiences hosting a refugee for the first time.

About the WUSC Student Refugee Program:

  • WUSC works with the Government of Canada, the UN Refugee Agency and overseas partners to assist with immigration screening, process applications, select students and prepare them for life in Canada.
  • Applicants must be recognized as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and can only apply from the asylum countries of Kenya, Malawi, Jordan, Lebanon and Malaysia.
  • From hundreds of applications an average of 60 students between the ages of 18 and 25 are selected annually.
  • 61 Canadian colleges and universities have welcomed over 1400 sponsored student refugees under the WUSC program since it was established in 1978.