Joy And Tears As First Syrian Refugees Arrive In Calgary

"It's a day I have been waiting more than a year and a half to happen."

Hugs, signs and gifts greeted the first Syrian refugees to arrive in the Canadian city of Calgary on Monday.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the 16 arrivals represented the first of 400 families who will be arriving in the city over the next few months.

About 60 Calgarians, both friends and strangers, were waiting at the airport to welcome the new arrivals, holding gifts of snacks, flowers, warm clothes, and welcoming signs.

Among the arriving refugees were Antoine Yousef, his wife, his wife’s sister, his 80-year-old mom, and his three-year-old twin daughters, who "couldn’t stop smiling as they walked through the arrival gate," the Calgary Herald reported. The family had fled Syria and lived in Lebanon for a year before arriving in Canada.

“I’m so proud for my daughters to be raised here in Canada, in this great country. You have democracy, freedom, friendly people, everything,” said Yousef through his cousin Esho, who acted as a translator.

Terez Khazaka had not seen her parents in five years, according to Global News. She applied for them to come to Canada as refugees one year ago. On Monday, they were reunited.

"It means a lot because we used to go every couple of years to see them but because of the war, we couldn’t," Khazaka told 660 News. "It was very emotional not seeing them and know that they are in danger. So, it makes it even worse for us. It’s a day I have been waiting more than a year and a half to happen."

This story was originally published on HuffPost Canada by Sarah Rieger. Additional edits made by Nico Pitney.