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Syrian Refugees Taken In By Vatican Begin New Life - Rome

Pope Francis greets Syrian refugees Refugees Nour Essa (30), husband Hasan Zaheda (31) and son Riad (2) during the flight from Lesbos to Rome Ciampino airport , Italy on April 16, 2016. Pope Francis brought 12 Syrian refugees back to Rome after a quick visit to the Greek island of Lesbos. All three families saw their homes bombarded in Syria and all three arrived in Greece from Turkey on overloaded rubber boats. Now, the families are beginning a new journey: language lessons and integration into a new culture. Nour Essa had escaped some of the initial turmoil of Syria’s civil war. She was living in Montpellier, France, while studying for a master’s in microbiology, before returning to her job in 2013 at Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission. She then married and had a child, but the war was creeping into her Damascus suburb. ‘We lived between checkpoints loyal to Assad and the Free Syrian Army and in 2015 we could smell the sulfur from chemical weapon attacks,’she said. Then her husband's draft papers arrived. The couple fled, starting a terrifying, 10-day journey across ISIS-held territory in an ambulance and then in a cattle truck. They made it to Lesbos on March 18, packed into a dinghy at night with 50 other refugees just two days before a March 20 deadline set by the European Union, beyond which new arrivals in Greece were to be sent back to Turkey unless they claimed asylum in Greece. ‘I was shocked when we were asked if we wanted to go,’ Nour Essa said. ‘We shook the pope's hand when we were on the plane and he caressed my 2-year-old son's head.’ Being in Rome and not a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos ‘is a big dream,’ said Hasan, Nour's husband, a garden designer who dreams of peace, safety and a dignified life for his young family. But also of seeing his homeland again. PHOTO By Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)

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April 28, 2016 12:00:00 AM
April 29, 2016 11:20:05 AM
Sipa USA via AP
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Political refugees, European Mass Migration Crisis, General news, Political refugees, Human welfare, Social issues, Social affairs, Events
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