News Australia reported on November 4, 2015, that then-immigration minister Peter Dutton handed 20 people their residency papers outside the Australian Embassy in Amman, the Jordanian capital.
Four families were selected under four primary criteria – their claims, their health, character, and security. These four families were ready to move to the final phase of AUSCAR (Australian Cultural Orientation). One family would move to Sydney, another to Melbourne, but all four families were excited and happy to be able to start new lives for the sake of their children.
Bashar Kujah and his family were from the embattled city of Homs in Syria and were thrilled to be heading towards a new life in Australia.
And now, one Syrian refugee family are excited to announce the birth of the first Australian baby citizen. Samer Sirri and his wife Klarinate promised their daughter Perla four years ago that if they ever had the opportunity to settle down and live in peace again, they would give her a baby brother. But this seemed an unlikely prospect for the young family from war-ravaged Syria, and later from Lebanon, where they fled as refugees and lived under the constant threat of arrest and deportation – or worse.
The Daily Telegraph reported that this week was an unbelievably happy week for Samer and Klarinate as they announced the birth of baby Noah at their home in Penrith. Authorities believe that Noah is the first baby conceived in Australia from one of the rescued and resettled families under the federal government’s 12,000 emergency humanitarian places program. Noah is indeed a lucky little boy because he will never know the horrors that his parents and big sister have had to endure.
Before the war, Samer Sirri was a successful surgeon in Damascus, and today he’s a very happy man as he smiles at his family and their small garden surrounds, saying that their life today feels “just like a dream.”
“This is just like a dream.”
Samer told how his only daughter had often complained of being “lonely” and that she wanted a baby brother more than anything. Saying that she “suffered a lot” from their frequent moves, Samer promised his daughter that they would try for a baby brother “when we are settled.”
“She has changed a lot just in this last week because she is like a little mum for him, she is more confident, she is not feeling bored, now she has her brother to look after, checking on him all the time. It was hard for her. We had no life, we were never safe and she would have nightmares, she would hear fireworks and think they were bombs and hide under the blankets but no more.”
Last August the family moved to Australia, and Samer is not wasting precious time. Besides already achieving his driver’s license, Samer has passed the Australian Medical Council’s first set of exams to re-qualify for work as a doctor in Australia.
Today, Samer has two job-offer placements – as a hospital emergency ward general practitioner in rural South Australia and one in Tasmania.
But, for the time being, the family is happy and simply enjoying their new freedoms.
“You know when you take the lid off a bottle and you get that release at last, a deep breath coming inside, you just feel like at last you are free. You feel like a human being, you will live like a human being, like others.”
Samer said that he was at home in Lebanon when the call came from the Australian Embassy. Both he and Klarinate cried because it meant a new and safe life for their family.
After everything he and his family have been through, Samer Sirri said it is his family’s newfound freedom to “walk safely” and “live safely” that he treasures the most. Plus, he finds himself continually amazed at the kindness he and his family have experienced from others.
“Everyone treats you fairly, you are not being treated with discrimination as a refugee or anything like that, people in Penrith have been so kind to us. We are so lucky, our neighbors helped us a lot, we know almost everyone in this street block, people asking us ‘do you need anything’, ‘do you need baby stuff?’ It really is amazing.”
In order to escape the violence of the conflict in Syria, the Sirri family was forced to move from village to village; however, with Samer being a doctor, he was wanted by both sides to help treat the wounded. Whilst working for the Red Cross, the violence forced the family to flee across the border to Lebanon but because Klarinate was Palestinian, she was unable to get a passport.
As her visa was due to expire, the family was told by authorities that she would have to be deported. That’s when they contacted UNHCR for help. The Sirri family was one of the fortunate families because they were told if they were prepared to travel there could well be a place for them in Australia.
Today, Samer, Klarinate, Perla and baby Noah Sirri are living a happy and fulfilled life in Penrith surrounded by wonderful neighbors and generous people offering to help in any way they can.
[Featured Image by fortton/Shutterstock]