TEARS rolled down the cheeks of a Syrian family torn apart by war as they gave their heartfelt thanks to Oxford for welcoming them to their new home.

The Almaree family - Reema and Maree with three of their children Abdullah, 17, Heba, 9, and Huda, 7, were among the first Syrian refugees to be rehoused in the city after their home in Aleppo was destroyed in the civil war.

They fled the country devastated in the conflict and are now making a new life in Oxford.

Mr Almaree, who used to work with cotton making products in Aleppo, said: “Everyone has been so welcoming and kind and we were just not used to this and it has made us really happy."

But the horrors of the ongoing civil war are never far from their minds with the family receiving videos and pictures of the devastation of the place they used to call home.

Four of the couple’s seven children are still stranded in Turkey and they are desperate to be reunited with them.

Mrs Almaree said: “My dream is for my family to all be here."

It is thought that since the start of the conflict in 2011, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.3 million people are displaced internally.

The Oxford Times:

The Almaree family in Turkey. Four of the couple's children remain in the country.

With their home crumbling around them, a Syrian family fled the death and devastation destroying their city only to be haunted by the nightmares they left behind.

The sound of rocket fire is never far from the family's minds as they try and rebuild their lives in Oxford.

Mr Almaree said: "We still have nightmares.

"We are safe now but the reality is when we get sent videos and pictures from our relatives still in Aleppo and there is just rubble everywhere we cannot detach ourselves from what is going on.

"When the rockets fell they would not just destroy one house but whole neighbourhoods, one minute they are there, the next just gone.

"It was like rain but instead of water it was shrapnel, dust and brick as everything went up in an explosion.

"Our daughter still cannot sleep at night even though she is safe here."

The Oxford Times:

Mrs Almaree with her three children Abdullah, Heba and Huda who have joined her and her husband in Oxford. Here they are enjoying a family trip to London.

Mrs Almaree said the family would not go back to Syria, after losing many relatives in the six-year conflict.

The 44-year-old added: “I love being here, I do not want to go back to Syria because I feel that I am safe here.

“We want to thank everyone so much because we feel like we have come home."

At the start of their Oxford journey, the family was greeted by a volunteer from Cowley-based Asylum Welcome, at the airport.

In their first few months they were shown around the city, learnt how to use public transport, signed up to health care and schools and how to buy food and necessities.

A year on and the couple's youngest girls are now flourishing in their new home.

Mr Almaree said: “Our two young girls’ English is amazing and they are doing really well at school, having just received some certificates for their work, which makes us so proud.

“We live for our kids, this is our happiness now seeing them learn and progress in school.

“The challenge has been the language because we cannot communicate, it is as if we are wearing dark glasses and cannot see but with words.

“In the new year I would like to learn even more English and then start volunteering so I can start to give back to the community who has given me so much.”

The Oxford Times:

Maree and Reema Almaree are settling into their new Oxford home.

Kate Smart, director of Asylum Welcome, said Oxford residents should be very proud of themselves.

She said: “The city should be extremely proud of the warmth and kindness they have shown to them.

“The city council and Connections have been a great support to these families after we do our initial work with them in the early stages.

“Our role is to welcome them from the airport, make sure their accommodation is ready with all the necessities, get them registered at the doctors and making sure they understand travelling in and around the city.

“If we get these basic things right then it makes it so much easier for them to start re-building their lives.”

The Oxford Times:

Kate Smart, director of Asylum Welcome

Oxford based charity Oxfam has worked extensively in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Greece since the conflict began six years ago.

Daniel Gorevan, Oxfam's Syria Crisis Campaign Manager said: "The Syrian conflict is now almost six years old, and in that time almost five million people have fled across borders to escape death and destruction.

"While many Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe and the UK, the vast majority have stayed in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

"As winter sets in, many refugee families in these countries are living in difficult conditions, either in refugee camps, or in poorer areas of the local community where they face spiralling debts as they struggle to find ways to pay for rent and food with few options to work legally."

How many Syrian refugees has the county resettled?

MORE than 80 Syrian refugees have been resettled across Oxfordshire over the last year.

And there are plans to rehouse a further 15 families in the county in 2017.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the success of the resettlement has been a testament to the kindness and generosity of the city.

He said: “The work Asylum Welcome have been doing has been very successful and I think our partnership with them, landlords and other agencies has made it easier for families.

“The support they have given is just fantastic. They are all volunteers and they are the face of Oxford.

“It has been a very good example of partnerships working between the city council, landlords, the health service and voluntary sectors.

“At this level we are able to cope and help provide for the families but I do not think we would be able to offer this level of support if there were a lot more people.”

The Oxford Times:

Leader of Oxford City Council Bob Price

He said he had recently visited schools to see the progress Syrian children were making and noted they were ‘very happy’ and had settled in well.

The city confirmed the first cohort of families being resettled from camps in the Middle East back in December 2015.

They were among the first to be re-housed in the UK following Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge in September that 20,000 Syrian refugees would be resettled by 2020.

Although Mr Price praised the city’s partnerships, he said there were worrying issues that still needed to be addressed.

He added: “There have been some significant issues we have faced and will continue to face.

“The first being the English language which is why we launched a programme to get the refugees through an English course.

“The big issue long term is what happens to the families after the five year programme because after that the government has not decided what the status of these families will be.

“Will they be expected to return to Syria? What happens in terms of their benefit entitlement? So the situation at the moment is very unclear.

“But we do know there are many more people who really do deserve this, getting a better life but we are not able to accommodate them unfortunately.”

The more rural parts of the county have struggled to engage with private landlords to help with their commitment to the resettlement programme.

Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council Matthew Barber said he was delighted to have resettled two families in the district but called on the help of landlords to help with homes for the additional four families they will be expecting this year.

He has asked for landlords with suitable three-bedroom properties to contact: 01235 422442.

The Syrian Civil War- what you need to know:

Since the conflict began in 2011 almost five million Syrians have fled the country and more than six million Syrians have been displaced.

Violence erupted after thousands took to the streets demanding President Bashar al-Assad's resignation.

Troubles escalated and the country descended into civil war as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for control of cities, towns and the countryside. Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of Aleppo in 2012.

In 2013 the UN said 90,000 people had been killed in the conflict with peace talks breaking down in 2014 with then-UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi blaming the Syrian government's refusal to discuss opposition demands.

President Bashar al-Assad was re-elected receiving 88.7 per cent of the vote in the country's first election since civil war broke out in 2011.

In 2015 the UN said 250,000 people had been killed in the conflict.

Last January the US and Russia led efforts to get representatives of the government and the opposition to attend "proximity talks" in Geneva to discuss a Security Council-endorsed road map for peace, including a ceasefire and a transitional period ending with elections.

A truce was brokered on December 30 by Russia and Turkey, backing opposing sides in the civil war, that has been threatened by repeated violations.

Yesterday Syrian rebel groups confirmed that they will attend peace talks with the Government in Kazakhstan next week.