Algerian refugee goes from rags to riches.

Author:Williams, Adreane

Daniele Henkel decided she had to flee Algeria because she felt her children were no longer safe.


"Islamists were starting to attack girls in the street," she says. "I had to think about my daughters, so I decided to move to Canada."

This was back in 1990, and Algeria was about to descend into more than a decade of civil war between a secular government and various Islamist groups.

Morocco-born Daniele was 34 at the time, and she and her Algerian husband lived a comfortable life with their four children. She worked as a political and economic adviser for the US consulate in the coastal city of Oran, while he was engineer.

But they gave up everything, almost overnight, to seek asylum in Canada.

The family arrived penniless in the city of Montreal in the middle of a bitterly cold Canadian winter, a snowstorm in full swing.

"Before moving, the immigration department of Canada had told us that my husband and I would easily find work," says Daniele. "In reality, things turned out to be very different."

While her husband Ahmad couldn't secure any work in his field, Daniele spent seven years scraping a living earning 75% less than she had done in Algeria. She did everything from working as a secretary, to selling lunchboxes, to trying her hand with an estate agents firm.

Daniele says she felt "rejected and worthless", but her life was to be transformed for the better when, in 1997, she decided to start her own business selling health and beauty products. She says she wanted to be her own boss because she was "tired of being exploited".

Her eponymous company has gone on to make her a multi-millionaire, and, today the 60-year-old is one of the best-known business leaders in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.

Sadly, the couple's marriage did not survive the move to Canada

"When my mother told me I had to marry Ahmad I screamed and cried. I was furious," says Daniele. "I didn't want to get married, but I wanted to stay close to my family, so I eventually agreed. I was married within two weeks."

Although she hadn't wanted the relationship, Daniele says she soon learned to love her husband. "He was the perfect man. He was generous, smart and very loving."

While he was a successful engineer, she quickly rose through the ranks at the US consulate after initially getting a low-grade job allocating visas.

So the couple built a happy life together in Algeria, until they were forced to flee the country.

In Canada, however...

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