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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.

Photo: Stuff

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