PHOTO SUBMITTED A WARM WELCOME The Abrha Gebre family from Eritrea was greeted by around 50 members of the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group on May 8. The family is the third refugee family to be sponsored by the group, and the fourth to settle in Summerland in the past three years. The writing just below the photo is “Welcome” in the Tigrinya language spoken by the family.

Eritrean refugee family arrives in Summerland

Abrha Gebre family sponsored by the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group

A refugee family from Eritrea, in eastern Africa, has arrived in Summerland.

The Abrha Gebre family arrived at Penticton airport on Tuesday, May 8, where they were greeted by around 50 members of the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group.

The family of six consists of a mother and father, a 14-year-old boy and three girls, aged 12, nine and three.

They have been living in a United Nations refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Doug Holmes, president of the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group, said the family left their home country in eastern Africa as a result of difficult conditions there.

Since Eritrea’s independence in the early 1990s, the president has created a highly militarized society, including mandatory conscription, sometimes of indefinite length.

“It’s a brutal dictatorship,” Holmes said. “People are fleeing that country in droves, and there’s a reason for that.”

The family arrived after flights from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Frankfurt, Germany and Vancouver, B.C., where they went through federal processing.

Holmes said the family will spend the next year learning English and adjusting to life in Canada.

He said the father already has good English skills.

The sponsorship committee has found a translator from Kelowna who is fluent in the Tigrinya language spoken by the family. Tigrinya is one of the languages spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Since the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group has helped other refugee families in past years, Holmes is confident the Abrha Gebre family will be able to adjust easily.

“We’ve done this with two other families already,” Holmes said. “We as a group have a lot more experience now. We know what we need to do.”

The Abrha Gebre family has come to Canada under the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program.

This program matches refugees identified for resettlement under the United Nations Refugee Agency with private sponsors in Canada.

The federal government and the private sponsors each provide six moths of income support to the family.

For 2018, the federal government is planning to take in 43,000 refugees, an increase of 3,000 from 2017.

This is the third family sponsored by the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group and the fourth refugee family to arrive in Summerland in the past three years.

The previous families are from Syria and are now living and working in Summerland.

“They are contributing members of the community,” Holmes said. “They have integrated well.”

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