GET WARM RECEPTION IN DUNEDIN, NZ
Wafaa Al Ashan said: “thank you” from her wheelchair to the the dozens of supporter who gathered to welcome Syrian refugees arriving in Dunedin. A visibly emotional Al Ashan said via an interpreter, she was feeling “sad and happy at the same time, but more happy than sad, because she is looking for a good life here”.
Her journey had taken her from Syria to a refugee camp in Lebanon where she spent the last two years. Her 13-year-old son, Ahmed, who learned english at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, was “very happy” to be in Dunedin. She has a 16-year-old son, who remained in Syria. “She couldn’t let him come with her, because maybe they would take him,” the interpreter said. Al Ashan knew little of New Zealand – apart from where it was on the world map – and nothing of Dunedin, but was looking forward to living in her new country. She was one of 49 Syrian refugees, who will be placed in homes across the city.
On behalf of the families, Walid Abdel Aziz thanked the Dunedin community, the Red Cross and the New Zealand government for making their new life possible. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and we promise to be up to your expectations,” he said via an interpreter. “We will make every effort to maintain, preserve and strengthen our home in New Zealand.” Applause broke out at Dunedin Airport when the Air New Zealand flight from Auckland touched down last Friday, about 9.15am. Red Cross volunteers, many of whom held placards and toys for the children, greeted the 13 families with a waiata (Maori song). The refugees, who had been based in Mangere for six weeks, responded with speeches and a traditional Arab song.