First batch of Syria refugees lands in Doha

January 03, 2013 - 1:53:06 am

One of the Syrian refugee families at the VIP lounge of the Doha International Airport last night.  -- QASSIM RAHMATULLAH


DOHA: Qatar has become the first GCC country to host Syrian refugees as the first batch of harrowed and homeless Syrians fleeing the repressive regime of President Bashar Al Assad arrived here late last night.

The group, consisting of 14 people from three families, including widows and their children, flew in here from Lebanon in a special plane.

They were staying in a refugee camp in Lebanon in an area bordering Syria. The families are originally from three different areas of Syria, namely, Al Khaledia, Tall Khalaq and Bab Umer.

A group of Qatari officials was at the airport to receive the special guests along with a large contingent of local media persons. The officials told the media that the Syrian families are special guests of the Emir, H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. 

“They will be taken care of by all means,” said an official in remarks to reporters.

This is the first batch of Syrian refugees to arrive here. Another batch is expected to land later tonight. A total of 42 people are likely to arrive in batches.

There was a widow in her late forties and her four children (two boys and two girls) who were part of the group which arrived here yesterday.

The widow, Najah, told the media that they left Mashtal Hamoud refugee camp in Lebanon yesterday afternoon, and added that she had no words to express her gratitude to Qatar and its Emir. “We are highly grateful. We are blessed to be here. We feel safe,” 

she said.

Najah said that even while they were in Lebanon they were receiving full support of Qatar and the Emir. Her eyes were moist as she briefly narrated her story to the media.

A Lebanese doctor and a psychologist, also Lebanese, accompanied the group to provide medical and psychological care and they said they took care of all travel arrangements of the guests.

Dr Atwan said the group even while in Lebanon was getting Qatar’s support and that Qatar is the first GCC country to host these families.

60,000 killed in Syria

More than 60,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, the UN said yesterday, as dozens more died or were wounded when an air strike hit a service station near Damascus.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in Geneva that 59,648 people had died through the end of November in the 21-month conflict, which began as a peaceful uprising in March 2011.

“Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013,” Pillay said in a statement.

Analysis has shown a steady increase in the average number of documented deaths per month since the beginning of the conflict, growing from around 1,000 in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 since July 2012.