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Together again...finally


It’s been five years, eleven months and three days since Ani Iskanian saw her eldest son Manoel – not that she’s been counting!

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Ani and her husband Moses, along with their two youngest sons Vrej and Shant, were among the 8000 families welcomed to Adelaide in 2016 as part of the Federal Government’s response to the exodus of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

The Armenian Christian family spent two years as refugees in Lebanon after leaving their home in Aleppo.

While happy to be safely resettled in Australia, Ani found it a struggle to be apart from her first-born who had left Aleppo earlier to avoid being conscripted to the army.

Only 23 at the time, Manoel desperately wanted to reunite with his family but twice was refused a visa, initially because the immigration authorities didn’t consider him to be a legitimate refugee and the second time because Australia’s humanitarian intake for that year had reached its quota.

Finally, on his third attempt, he was successful in gaining an interview and in September last year he was told his application was approved. However, it took another nine months for a medical to be organised and then a one month wait for his papers to be processed.

As soon as Manoel received his visa, Ani booked the flights and he was here within a week.

“I couldn’t wait any more,” she said.

“It was amazing at the airport, you can’t imagine,” she said.

“I was going up the stairs when I saw him, I wanted to fly and hug him. It was such a beautiful moment.

“I was crying a lot but this time it was from happiness. It was my dream to see the three brothers together again in the same house.”

Over the past six years Ani has shed many tears and suffered from anxiety as she spent hours talking to officials and seeking help with Manoel’s visa application. She gained references from community leaders, including the head of the Armenian Church in Australia, and from Vrej’s employer, Steve Bosley, of Amorini Australia.

Steve gave Vrej a job in his kitchen supplies warehouse after learning about his family’s journey from Syria in an article in The Southern Cross.

Vrej, who is now 25, has been sending money to Manoel each month after his older brother lost his job as a barman in Beirut three years ago, the venue being forced to close due to COVID.

“I have the most amazing children,” Ani said proudly.

Shant, 14, is doing well at school and was recently elevated from Year 9 to a Year 9/10 class.

Manoel was shocked when he arrived in Adelaide and saw his “little” brother.

“He had been dreaming of seeing Shant, he was small when we left and he wanted to hug him but Shant is bigger than him now,” she said.

Manoel received some training from the International Organisation for Migrants in Lebanon to bring him up to speed on the laws and other aspects of life in Australia. His English is good but Ani said he was having trouble with the Australian accent and would enrol in a TAFE language course soon.

While he is still settling in to his new life, it’s a big improvement on his experience in Lebanon where the economic crisis has resulted in the cost of living skyrocketing and most households have electricity for only one hour a day.

Ani volunteers at the Vinnies House of Welcome at Kilburn but she has stopped for the time being to spend time with her now complete family.



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