Syrian refugees arrive in Nova Scotia
The Al Sammans are the second family to arrive in Nova Scotia this month
Hugs, kisses on both cheeks, joyful cries. There was an emotional reunion at the Halifax Stanfield Airport Thursday night as grandparents embraced grandchildren they had never seen before.
Years after fleeing war-torn Syria, the parents and 27-year-old brother of a Lower Sackville man arrived with only what they could carry in half a dozen suitcases to start a new life.
Chaker Al Samman last visited his parents in Syria four and a half years ago but it's been two years since they fled Damascus abandoning their home and clothing shop.
"He says they had two bombs on our street and he got scared," Al Samman translated for his father Bassam, who speaks Arabic.
"He couldn't focus anymore. He said you never know when you are going to be dying, so it's better to leave"
UN says millions of Syrians homeless
Al Samman's parents and younger brother Mohamad are among 3.8 million Syrian refugees the United Nations has identified as having fled the country who are in need of resettlement.
"Syria has three million refugees," says Al Samman. "Seven million with no houses, three million children with no schools and the situation is not getting better. And no one is stepping up for Syria."
The Al Sammans are the second family to arrive in Nova Scotia this month, among the 1,300 Syrian refugees Ottawa has so far agreed to take in.
Al Samman's wife Alaa Alouf is a Dalhousie nursing student and mother of three small children. She says another reason her husband's family left Syria is because her brother-in-law Mohamad was being sent to "hot spots" and forced into fighting for a second time after already serving two years in the Syrian Army.
"He told me, 'I escaped from the house because the police came," said Alaa. "I went on the roof, then I jumped off a few roofs and ran down alleys. I hid with relatives for a few days before I left the country."
Mohamad and his parents lived in Egypt after Syria. Alaa began the paperwork two years ago to sponsor the family and bring them to Canada. She had no success until about six months ago when she discovered they could apply as refugees, co-sponsored by ISANS (Immigrant Settlement Assoc of Nova Scoita) and a community sponsor, in their case a Sunni mosque on Joseph Howe Drive.
Last night Mohamad said he had mixed feelings about finally coming to Canada.
"It's bittersweet for him ," said Alaa. "He says I am happy we are with my brother and we have a new country to call home. But it's also sad because Syria was our home."
Mohamad and his parents plan to enrol in English classes. He's been offered a job by a company that makes kitchen counter tops. Chaker works long hours at a pizza place in Lower Sackville. His family has expanded from five to eight people overnight.
ISANS says it expects one more family of Syrian refugees to arrive in the province sometime next month.