A B.C. couple’s emotionally-fraught journey to bring their adopted Congolese son to Canada has finally come to an end after the youngster’s arrival at Vancouver airport.

Although legally adopted by Shelley and Fred Muntau, red tape prevented them from bringing home Pedro since he was just in infant.

He is now three-and-a-half years old.

“I’m so relieved, it’s just been so long,” said Shelley Muntau, breaking down into tears after picking up her son for the first time on Canadian soil Wednesday.

In 2013, the federal government in the Democratic Republic of Congo abruptly halted foreign adoptions over unfounded reports some children had been mistreated or abandoned by their new parents – or that others had been “sold to homosexuals.”

Around 1,000 foreign adoptions were affected by the bureaucratic halt, including hundreds in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

“All they needed was an exit letter to get on that plane,” Shelley Muntau says of the children caught in the middle of the process.

Canadian adoptive families found themselves in a Catch-22: DRC officials wouldn’t issue an exit letter for the children to leave, and officials here wouldn’t issue a visa without the letter.

The families found themselves in a stalemate until the new federal government took power this fall. Foreign affairs and the Canadian embassy worked together to deliver dossiers on the children to Congolese officials, who finally okayed 180 adoptions on Tuesday.

“The red tape has really been unbelievable,” said Shelley Muntau.

The process has been highly emotional for the Muntaus. There were many moments over the past three years where they believed the adoption would go ahead, only to be met by “big disappointments.”

Shelley flew to the DRC last summer, and spent three months living with two other Canadian moms while they waited to bring home their children. She was sent home empty-handed.

And days before Christmas, she and her husband flew to Brussels believing they could bring home their toddler only to face more delays, and finally, returning home without him once again.

Then on Wednesday, 11 Congolese children landed in Canada to start their new lives.

Fred Muntau, who has never met his son, flew to pick him up in Montreal, where he had been flown by another adoptive parent.

“I can’t describe it,” he says of the ordeal. “It’s been so hard.”

Immigration consultant and adoptive parent Andrea Bastin took on the Muntaus’ case pro bono. She describes the situation as “agony” for both the parents and children.

“These Canadian families have gone to the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent months there bonding with their children and so it’s been very difficult for these little people living in orphanages wondering why they can’t come to Canada,” she said.

“It’s been really traumatic.”

Five more children are waiting to come to Canada, including one moving to B.C.

Shelley Muntau says even though the road has been a long one, it’s been worth it to finally have her son at home.

“I just can’t wait to just get settled, and the four of us just kind of go back to normal life instead of all this waiting and waiting,” she said.

With files from The Associated Press