'Welcoming' people of Northern Ireland hailed as 1,000th Syrian refugee lands
A thousand Syrian refugees have arrived in Northern Ireland as part of a rescue scheme to help the vulnerable.
Head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling said the efforts of the public, community and voluntary organisations had provided sanctuary, support and the chance of a new life for those who were fleeing the war-torn region.
Yesterday morning a further 78 arrived through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, bringing the total since 2015 to 1,010.
Mr Sterling said: "It is fitting that during Refugee Week, we welcomed the 1,000th Syrian refugee to Northern Ireland.
"Over the last three years, organisations and people across Northern Ireland have played our part in this humanitarian effort and I am proud of everything we have achieved together to welcome these families into our society and offer them a new future.
"Today we are recognising the considerable effort which has helped to ensure the transition has been as smooth as possible."
Ian Snowden, who leads delivery of the programme in the Department for Communities, said it had been a challenging experience, but one of the most rewarding projects he had worked on.
He said: "As a father of two boys, every time I see the mums and dads and their children arrive at the airport I am struck by how frightening it would be to move your entire family to a new country and start again.
"Despite the challenges they face, the refugee families who have arrived in Northern Ireland have embraced life here."
Some have gone on to study at university for the careers they wished to pursue but could not in Syria or the surrounding camps.
Mr Snowden added: "Children are thriving in schools.
"We have had sporting success and many examples of how the Syrian culture is enriching the communities in which the families live.
"Northern Ireland is providing the families with a bright future and I want to thank everyone who has and will continue to play their part in this scheme."
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said it is important we continue to be as welcoming a society as possible.
"Over the past almost three years, we have seen the arrival of many vulnerable people as part of this scheme," he said.
"It is essential we remain as welcoming as possible, to send out a clear message refugees will continue to be welcome here in Northern Ireland."