CALGARY – A long wait and long flight has finally come to an end for 16 Syrian refugees.
Two families of six and a family of four arrived in Calgary from Frankfurt, Germany Monday afternoon.
They had applied more than a year ago, and were living in Lebanon.
Each of them were met by a large Olympic-style homecoming at Calgary International Airport.
Each of them were also reunited with family members, already in Calgary, who will act as partial sponsors. They will also be assisted by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) and local churches.
Many other Calgarians, without any obvious connection to the families, waited in arrivals to greet the new-comers. They brought flowers, winter clothes and signs with welcoming words.
Terez Khazaka has been anticipating this day for a long time. She has been living in Calgary for eight years and hadn’t seen most of her family in more than five years. Her sister came to Canada as a refugee last year.
After an emotional reunion, the family is together again. Her mother, father and brother all received their paperwork a few weeks ago.
Khazaka translated for her mother, who spoke in Arabic.
“Very happy! Very very happy. All her kids! She’s seeing them finally.”
Ashour Esho also thanked those welcoming her family at the airport. “I’m so happy and I cannot imagine that – now, I have the whole family, here, in Canada. They are safe now, in a very beautiful country,” said Esho. Thank you so much for everything. We are all Canadian.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi suggested Calgary is well-equipped to welcome somewhere between 1,000 and 1,300 Syrian refugees.
“We normally accept more than 1,000 refugees a year. So, while it’s a very big number, it’s not completely out of the scope of what is already done,” said Mayor Nenshi.
“I am confident in saying we are ready.”
Nenshi also mentioned that a higher vacancy rate in Calgary this year compared to last will help facilitate refugees. There are currently about 2,500 empty apartments on the market.
It isn’t certain if the new arrivals make up part of the Liberal government’s plan to bring in 25,000 refugees.
Four hundred more families are expected to arrive to Calgary from Syria before the end of the year, the mayor said.
Since July of 2013, CCIS has helped sponsor 133 Syrian refugees.
-With files from Stefan Keyes
© 2015 Shaw Media