First group of Syrian refugees arrives in Belfast
The first group of Syrian refugees resettling in Northern Ireland has arrived in Belfast.
The 51 Syrians, many of them young children, had been staying in makeshift refugee camps in Lebanon, and are moving to Northern Ireland as part of the UK-wide relocation scheme.
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the new residents.
"I welcome each of the Syrian families to Northern Ireland and hope that they will quickly feel safe and secure in their new home," said Mr Robinson.
"I have no doubt the people of Northern Ireland will extend a very warm hand of friendship, charity and generosity to our new friends and families.
"They can count on our continued support and encouragement in what has been a turbulent and traumatic time for all of them. The people of Northern Ireland do not just offer somewhere to live but the promise of a future full of hope."
Mr McGuinness said: "I welcome all the Syrian families to the north of Ireland. Rest assured our people will open their arms and hearts to all who arrive here.
"They have been forced to leave the place they call home due to the persecution and pain being inflicted upon them in their home land. We shall make every effort to help them settle quickly here and feel as content as possible in their new environment.
"Today starts a new chapter in their lives and we all must play an active part to make sure they feel welcome, accepted and valued. I appeal to all our people to act kindly and compassionately and help rebuild and restore their faith in humanity."
The Syrians will spend a number of days in one facility in Belfast to orientate themselves with their new surroundings.
Awaiting them were hundreds of cards and messages of welcome from local people of all ages.
The location of the refugees' temporary accommodation is not being disclosed to ensure their privacy.
During their first days in Belfast, the Syrians will receive medical, police and legal briefings about how life works in Northern Ireland.
Each family will be assigned a key worker and offered translation support.
Earlier this month a group calling itself the Protestant Coalition organised a protest in Belfast city centre to demonstrate against the arrival of the Syrians.
However, only around 25 turned up and participants were significantly outnumbered by a counter-demo organised by people voicing a message of welcome.