Zermig Amin and his family flee the civil war in Syria and rebuild their lives in the Midland
When Zermig Amin immigrated to Canada six years ago, she was 20, fleeing the civil war in Syria.
Aleppo was the only home she knew until she moved to a room full of clothes, food and smiling faces in Midland in February 2016 for what would soon become the family of the Chosen.
Amin had recently graduated high school, and began his university career when he and his family took shelter underground from atop bombs after the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.
“We decided to leave for our own safety,” says Amin.
When Amin left with his brother Katiq and his parents, they moved to Lebanon where his other brother was already living. Another of his brothers chose to stay in Syria.
“At first it was challenging,” says Amin. The process involves letting go of everyone, and everything you’ve ever known.
After living in Lebanon for some time, the Amin family applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for resettlement.
Amin and his family waited three years until they heard that Canada was accepting refugees. Amin got a call that he had a plane ticket to Canada in 2016.
In that time, from 2011-2016, the UN Security Council estimated that the crisis in Syria killed 250,000 people and displaced 12 million people – describing it as one of the world’s largest refugee crises has gone. So far, more than 400,000 people have died in the Syrian war; More than six million people are internally displaced and 14 million refugees are spread around the world.
In 2020, then-Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco EL Mendicino said that 73,000 Syrian refugees had made their way into Canada since 2011.
According to the UNHCR, Canada is one of the world leaders in the resettlement of refugees. There are more refugees aged 25 to 54 than there are Canadian-born citizens.
As one of those young men who settled in Canada, Amin was told that he would have to leave his family behind.
“It is very rare for entire families to get refugee status at the same time,” says Amin.
He took the chance. When she landed in Toronto, and went with her aunt and cousins, she felt relieved. Then, when she learned she was moving to Midland, she was shocked when someone mistakenly told her that Midland was six hours from Toronto.
After traveling more than 9,000 kilometers from Syria to Canada, a journey that lasted more than 24 hours, Amin was distraught at the thought that she would be six hours away from her extended family in Toronto.
Then, Ziyad al-Mousawi, a member of the group that sponsored Amin and his family, called him and reassured him that Midland was only two hours away.
At the time, it was the quiet voice that spoke Arabic on the other end of the phone, telling her about the people who were waiting to help her find comfort in her new home.
Amin says she didn’t fully understand how the refugee process works, and was surprised to learn that there was a whole group of people responsible for sponsoring her.
“I felt more relaxed when I came in and saw all those people, and the house was full of food, clothes, everything you can imagine,” says Amin. He was with me morning, afternoon and night.
“My brother came over the next week,” she explains, “we were surrounded by all these wonderful people.”
They settled into life in Midland, and their parents joined them three months later.
again on 1st Julyscheduled tribe – Canada Day – I got my first job,” says Amin.
He remembers that al-Mousawi, the owner of Samouna Middle Eastern restaurant, was not sure that Amin would want to work in a restaurant. “Now, I manage the place,” laughs Amin.
Over the next few years, the Amin family continued to make Canada their new home, and worked to bring in another brother, Sevag, with the help of the group sponsoring their family.
Yet another brother chose to live in Syria because he had children. Amin got engaged, married her husband in Armenia and moved him to Canada in 2018.
As she reflects on what has happened since she first moved to Canada and the Midland, Amin quickly thinks of the chosen family that brought her and her family here.
“At this point, they have outgrown the organization that brought me here. They are past sponsors. They are family,” explains Amin. “It is hard to forget what they have done. You have to appreciate what they have done to get you here.”
Al-Mousawi also helped him get a job in Samouna. Amin is excited to be back at work at the restaurant’s new location while she works towards joining OPP.
Filled with love and appreciation for her new hometown, Amin says, “I would like to keep Midland a safe haven if possible.”
“I don’t think I’m a refugee. I don’t feel like an immigrant. I’m Canadian,” says Amin.
Turning her attention to the house where she was born, Amin says, “I want to go to Aleppo one day. In the end, the people who stayed there are the real heroes.”