Canada has welcomed a planeload of refugees from Syria, the first wave to arrive as part of the country's official resettlement scheme. The new arrivals were to be screened before being resettled across the country.
The 163 Syrian refugees, who arrived at Toronto airport aboard a military aircraft late on Thursday, were personally greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"This is a wonderful night, where we get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada is all about, we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations," Trudeau told others, including airport workers and volunteers, as they waited to meet the refugees.
The Canadian prime minister has said 10,000 Syrians will be resettled by the end of the year and a further 15,000 by the end of February. An initial plan to bring in 25,000 by the end of the year was scaled back after the November 13 Paris attacks sparked fears that there would not be enough time for security checks.
'Chilly, but friendly'
Trudeau met the Canadian military CC-150 transport plane, which had set out from Lebanon and briefly stopped in Germany, at a special terminal amid tight security.
"Welcome to Canada," read a headline on the front page of Thursday's Toronto Star, which is Canada's largest circulation newspaper.
"You'll find the place a little bigger than Damascus or Aleppo, and a whole lot chillier. But friendly for all that. We're a city that cherishes its diversity; it's our strength," it reads. The newspaper also featured a list of 10 things that refugees should know about Canada.
Spread across country
Canada Border Services has set up a screening area at the airport, and created a children's play area.
Refugees were expected to undergo medical checks and administrative checks before being distributed for resettlement in 36 cities across the country.
Since the beginning of 2014, Canada has taken in 3,500 Syrian refugees.
In the neighboring US, President Barack Obama has said the country will receive 10,000 refugees over the next year.
Meanwhile, Germany has registered more than a million asylum-seekers during the 2015.
rc/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)