First Government Sponsored Syrian Refugees Arrive in Regina!

Posted in Community Programs / Immigration News

First Government Sponsored Syrian Refugees Arrive in Regina!

 Dec. 22/15 Regina Leader Post - Austin M. Davis  

Crowd gathers at Regina airport Monday to welcome newcomers
There were no barriers, language or otherwise, between Regina’s first Syrian refugees and a warm welcome. But there were plenty of hugs.

Dec. 22/15 Regina Leader Post - Austin M. Davis

Safaa Saleh Khamees, left, and Radi Hayal Al Bardan hold their eight-month-old son Rida Radi Al-Bardan after arriving from a Toronto flight at the Regina International Airport on Monday night. The Syrian couple had been in a refugee camp in Jordan.A crowd, many holding signs with “Welcome” written in English and Arabic, gathered at Regina International Airport on Monday night, waiting for Radi Hayal Al Bardan, his wife Safaa Saleh Khamees and their eight-month-old son Rida. The newcomers and the members of the informal welcome wagon were all smiles — with a few brushing aside tears.
The family, the first government sponsored refugees to arrive in Regina as part of the federal government’s plan to take in 25,000 Syrians by March, were quickly given Canadian and Saskatchewan flags. Al Bardan was wearing a Saskatchewan Roughriders toque in record time and was given a speedy tutorial on how to pronounce to que.

After three years in a Jordanian refugee camp, Al Bardan told reporters through a translator that his family was proud and happy to have arrived in their new home, despite a difficult journey.

“We are very happy to see the people of Canada. They are so respectful. They are so civilized. And we thank you very much, again and again,” Al Bardan said of the reception.

For their son, travelling to Regina was Rida’s first time outside of a refugee camp.

“I feel so happy because there is a chance for my child to be educated and to live peacefully. Life here definitely will be way better than what he experienced (at the camp),” Al Bardan said.

Aurora Elig, one of more than 900 members of the Reginabased “I will help” Facebook page, wanted to be at the airport to let the newcomers know they’re entering a community that’s happy to have them. “I teared up. I was a big baby. I cried. It was really overwhelming and beautiful. They just looked so touched and so happy that people were here to welcome them,” Elig said.

Members of all three levels of government were present at the airport. Mayor Michael Fougere went to greet the newcomers straight from a city council meeting. Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale and Regina-Coronation Park MLA Mark Docherty both stood at the bottom of the escalator, gifts in hand.

Goodale, who is also minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said it has been remarkable to see governments, agencies, community groups and volunteers come together to prepare for Syrian refugees.

“It’s very, very satisfying to see the policy idea that was theoretical a few weeks ago really coming into fruition now,” Goodale said, adding that he wanted to pass along to the newcomers that Regina is a warm and welcoming place, despite the presence of winter.

“It’s even a milder winter than we would have expected,” Goodale said.

The province is preparing to receive between 800 and 850 Syrian refugees, but more may be heading to Saskatchewan.

“We have our first family coming and we still don’t know overall what the number will be coming to Regina and when they might come,” said Darcy Dietrich, Regina Open Door Society executive director.

“We’re actually fairly used to not knowing much before refugees arrive in Regina.”

While he wishes Al Bardan and his family could sleep all day Tuesday, Dietrich said the process of getting accustomed to life in Canada must start.

That means many assessments and forms are ahead.

“Lots is going to happen for them, especially over the next six weeks,” Dietrich said.