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Armenians in Montreal sponsor 40 Syrian refugees

CTV Montreal: Refugees arrive in Canada
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, October 28, 2015 10:14AM EDT

Emotions ran high at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Tuesday night as a number of families anxiously waited for their loved ones to clear customs.

The group of 40 Syrian refugees, many who had fled Syria years ago, were able to make their way to Canada thanks to a small group of volunteers.

The organization Hay Doun has managed to resettle nearly 800 refugees since the civil war broke out — more than any other organization in the country.

Hay Doun has a collective sponsorship contract with the Quebec government and uses private donations to bring refugees to Canada.

A group of 40 Syrian refugees arrived in Montreal on Tuesday night.

“Their first few words are ‘thank you, thank you’,” Narod Odabasiyan, Hay Doun’s director of family support services, told CTV Montreal.

Hay Doun has a collective sponsorship contract with the Quebec government and uses private donations to bring refugees to Canada. Odabasiyan said the group works with other community partners to help refugees find everything from warm winter clothes to employment.

Hay Doun got its start six years ago thanks to funding from Armenian Diocese of Canada to provide assistance to individuals who could not access social services due to language barriers or lack of knowledge of the programs available. The group later turned its attention to helping families from Syria and Iraq that were caught in the escalating violence.

The group’s president Nayiri Tavlian, a volunteer herself, said she never misses an opportunity to witness a family reunion.

“I insist on coming every time because it connects you with their feelings,” Tavlian said.

Another one of the relatives waiting at the airport, Nairy Mardiros said her aunt and two cousins were in “immediate danger” when they fled Syria two years ago.

“Their apartment had been attacked so they had to leave everything behind and go to Lebanon for temporary refuge,” Mardiros said.

As Mardiros waited for her family members to land in Montreal, she said was feeling anxious and emotional.

“I’m sure once they come through the doors I’m going to burst into tears, that’s for sure,” she said.

‘It’s like a dream’

One of the refugees, 26-year-old Maria Agop, said she still couldn’t believe she was in Canada.

“It’s like a dream or something,” she said, after coming off a long flight from Istanbul.

Upon landing in Montreal, Harout Hagop said he was grateful to be in Canada.

“It’s a civilized country and it’s making everything easy for the refugees,” Hagop said. “So I took my chances.”

Agop is now hoping her parents, who are still in Syria, will be able to make their way to Canada.

“I know they elected a new prime minister,” she said.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year. While refugee advocacy groups have said the lofty goal may be difficult to achieve, many have suggested that the government focus on family reunification cases.

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