Refugees who fled Syrian war become citizens in emotional Australia Day ceremony

An Armenian family that fled Syria during the civil war were among the 16,000 people who became Australian citizens in ceremonies around the country.

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Nayiri Injejikian and her husband Nerses Chuljia at a citizenship ceremony in Parramatta. Source: SBS

With two young children, Nayiri Injejikian and her husband Nerses Chuljian fled the war in Syria in 2012 and arrived at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Six years after being granted humanitarian visas by the Australian government, the Armenian family became citizens on Wednesday in an Australia Day ceremony in Parramatta in Sydney's west.

“We kept [staying] there hoping everything would be finished soon … but the war got worse and we fled the country and went to Lebanon,” Ms Injejikian told SBS News.

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“From there we choose Australia to emigrate because it’s a wonderful country, it’s safe and it’s multicultural, we can have all the opportunities for the kids to get educated and having a good future.”



Ms Injejikian said she feels grateful for all the opportunities provided to her family after moving to Australia. 

“I’d like to express my appreciation for Australia. We have great opportunities to live safely, to study, to work, even we had the chance to buy our first home,” she said.

“I’m sure we will have lots of opportunities to give back to this wonderful country.”

When asked what becoming a citizen meant for her family, Ms Injejikian said it was about “making a commitment to Australia and our shared values like respect, value and fairness.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison poses with new citizens during the National Australia Day Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in  Canberra, Wednesday, January 26, 2022. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison poses with new citizens during the National Australia Day Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra. Source: AAP


Her family was joined by more than 16,000 people from over 150 nations who became citizens on January 26 at 400 ceremonies across the country.

Tatenda Chitsungo and Eliska Sy both came to Australia from their home countries on the same day, unknown to each other.

Eight years later, the pair are now married with two children, and now among the newest Australians after taking part in the national citizenship ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Chitsungo, originally from Zimbabwe, and Ms Sy, originally from the Philippines, arrived as international students in 2014.

"We met through my (husband's) sister and he came to visit her that day and that's how we met, and then we found out that we moved to Australia less than 24 hours apart from our own countries," Ms Sy said.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison poses for photos with new citizens Tatenda Chitsungo, wife Eliska Sy and their children. Source: AAP


The couple and their eldest child Tanatswa, aged three, were among the 19 people conferred as citizens during the ceremony on Australia Day.

Mr Chitsungo said becoming an Australian citizen was a long process, but worth it.

"We now have a sense of belonging, we now know that we belong here, and that is what is most important to us," he said.

"We came here as international students and then we decided to be permanent residents, and now there's lots of privileges to be a citizen."

Among those who became the country's newest citizens at the Canberra ceremony were people from Qatar, the United States, Japan, Finland, Ghana, Colombia and India.



While the pandemic has seen less people attending ceremonies in person, Ms Sy said it was a privilege to be conferred on Australia Day.

"We're going to celebrate the rest of the day with family," she said.

"We have our children here and a multicultural community, that's one of the most important things."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country's newest citizens would be inheriting Australia's history and future.

"You don't come to our national story empty-handed, either. Like so many before you, you add your threads to Australia's rich tapestry," he said at the ceremony.

"You now write your own chapters in Australia's story."

With additional reporting by AAP.


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4 min read
Published 26 January 2022 at 3:41pm
By Eden Gillespie, Claudia Farhart
Source: SBS