PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a Philadelphia welcome for a few dozen refugees from Syria and other countries.
Each refugee at the City Hall reception had a heartrending story of fleeing oppression overseas, and each is now living in Philadelphia.
The Syrian civil war forced 23-year-old Yasir Illihan to leave his home in Damascus.
“I can’t kill anyone, so I don’t want to share with them,” Illihan said. “So because of that, I will leave Syria. I cannot find peace in my city and my country.”
He was among about three dozen refugees at a ceremony organized by City Councilman David Oh.
“I wanted to make sure that they understood that we welcome them to our city, and that way they can feel settled and begin to become contributing Philadelphians,” Oh said.
Illihan has a job as a chef, but he’s concerned because he doesn’t know when his family — who fled to Jordan — will be able to join him here.
Three-year-old Laith and his family fled war-ravaged Aleppo – after mortar shells forced them from their home.
“She’s so happy that she’s living between nice people and welcoming people,” said interpreter for refugee Ghufran Smakiaa.
Little Laith and his family now call Philadelphia home. Their refugee status gives them a year before they’ll be eligible to apply for green cards.
“They’ve been in a very terrible place, with a lot of tragedy, and I think that’s a story familiar to generations of Americans,” said Oh.
The family is also here for life-preserving medical care.
“She also has a sick daughter that she needs to go to a regular basis to the hospital for dialysis for her kidneys,” said Smakiaa via her translator.
The process of fleeing the land of the Bashar al-Assad regime has been sad, long and drawn out, they say.
These refugees are now seeking work, while acclimating to a new a city, culture, and schools.
“Many people in our city welcome them with open arms, and a kind heart which I think reflects the best traditions of America and certainly the city of Philadelphia,” said Oh.
After the green card is obtained, there is another four-year wait to become a U.S. citizen.