After a long day of travel, the first group of Syrian refugees airlifted to Canada checked in to their hotel just before 4 a.m. Friday.
“We suffered a lot,” said Kevork Jamkossian, who stepped off the first government flight with his wife, Georgina Zires, and the couple’s 16-month-old daughter, Madeleine.
“Now, we feel as if we got out of hell and we came to paradise,” Jamkossian said.
The Canadian forces plane carrying 163 privately sponsored refugees touched down at Pearson International Airport just before midnight, its passengers met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and other dignitaries.
Trudeau and Wynne greeted the first two families to come through processing and gave them winter coats.
“We’re so glad you’re here,” Wynne told the family, before handing Madeleine a teddy bear, which the young girl accepted with a shy smile.
“We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff — we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected,” Jamkossian told Trudeau.
“You are home,” Trudeau said. “Welcome home.”