Edmonton man reunites with daughters who fled conflict in Ethiopia

Edmonton man reunites with daughters who fled conflict in Ethiopia

With a joyful cry, Hassan Mursal sweeps his girls into his arms at the Edmonton airport after fighting for years for this moment.

Saabiriin, 14, and Zuhur, 9 beam as their dad kisses them and wipes away tears.

Their journey began months earlier when the sisters fled an escalating conflict in southern Ethiopia and ended up stranded in Nairobi in the care of family friends.

"I'm thanking Allah today," said Mursal Tuesday, his voice hoarse with emotion. "They arrived safely. With me they are joined."

The girls are Canadian citizens and Mursal has tried to bring them to Canada for more than three years. But the process dragged on because of a dispute about Saabiriin's passport photo.

In January, the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights raised Mursal's case with cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi's office.

Community members spent long hours filling out applications as an official with Global Affairs coordinated with Kenyan authorities and communicated with Mursal and his supporters.

Within weeks, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada issued emergency travel documents for the girls. After one final delay as the sisters waited for exit visa documents from the Kenyan government, this week they were finally on their way.  

"I'm thanking everyone who helped me," said Mursal as his weary girls hugged their aunt, greeted another family who worked on their case and took in their foreign surroundings.

With a shy smile, Saabiriin tried out her English, saying, "I'm happy to be here."

After their chaotic circumstances left them unable to study in East Africa, Mursal said he is excited for his girls to start school in Edmonton.

"All my dreams I dreamed before have come true today," said Mursal.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar