Sarah Barda is director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Just Foreign Policy, a think tank based in the United States.
The story begins in October 2017, when a Syrian-American woman, Jadine Husain, began to search for a donor who could help her younger brother find a life in Canada.
The 27-year-old had recently returned to Syria from Canada and found himself living in exile and with a worsening health condition. “He’s not mentally in one mind,” Husain told a reporter from the Toronto Star. “He’s so depressed because of ISIS.”
In an effort to find Husain’s brother a place to live in Canada, and consequently raise his résumé, Husain reached out to the Atlantic Philanthropies (APT) Foundation, which has overseen the relocation of more than 8,000 refugees from Syria over the past four years.
The foundation responded with an offer to resettle Husain’s brother in Toronto.
APT has documented its public resettlement work on its website, and the resettlement work specifically focuses on welcoming Iraqi refugees and Syrian women escaping sexual abuse and exploitation. It seeks refugees in need who are safe, stable and know English, and requests that prospective recipients show their résumés.
But at the end of October, Husain told the Toronto Star that her brother was the only refugee approved by APT to be resettled in Canada.
She continued to search for other ways to raise her brother’s résumé.
Bakra worked to fight for her brother’s resettlement and repeatedly asked APT Foundation President Claire Donahue, a Lebanese-Canadian, to understand the circumstances around Husain’s brother’s refugee situation.
But, Barda says, Donahue did not respond to Barda’s attempts to make additional connections with other organizations and said that none of the organizations they had discussed with her were interested in taking her brother in.
Two months after her initial inquiry, Barda was struck with an idea, that seemed desperate to her at the time: She called APT’s sister foundation, Mission through Art (MOTA), to see if the non-profit would be interested in helping with the resettlement of Husain’s brother.
MOTA is a small non-profit that has been at the forefront of the struggles facing Syrians in Lebanon, offering assistance to those who have been displaced by the crisis and aiding the general construction of new homes and renovations for existing ones.
Cape Town is home to MOTA. Through its art and film programmes, MOTA also recruits young women and men of colour into filmmaking, film editing and screenwriting.
Lebanese-born and raised, Lina Abu Jibbar is the charity’s founder and director of life equity and disaster response.
She gave Barda the same two options that the others had for the selection process: Her brother would have to undergo some medical checks, and the group would need to interview him. Barda said MOTA saw fit to offer up Husain’s brother to the group.
It was not until October 2018 that MOTA began its involvement in Husain’s brother’s resettlement process, but the Lebanon chapter of APT, which promotes immigration, does not report on the individuals that it resettles into Canada.
MOTA says that Husain’s brother’s Résumé is “relevant” to resettling that refugee, and that his résumé was added to MOTA’s official Mota website because the Syrian community in Canada is part of the MOTA family.
The brother was also featured in photos of Hoby Mamoun, an MOTA volunteer and director of the organization’s Building Dreams of a Future initiative, in MOTA’s newsletter.
MOTA now says that it mistakenly included Husain’s brother’s name without his knowledge in the newsletter.