The file photo shows a girl in a refugee camp for Kashmiri villagers.
The file photo shows a girl in a refugee camp for Kashmiri villagers.

Alsaadi Mohammad, a Syrian refugee taking shelter in Greece, is waiting for his journey to new home Ireland with mingled hope and fear.

Mohammad and his family are among the few lucky refugees who were accepted by a European country, as part of a relocation program to decompress Greece, the main entry point into Europe for refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East since 2015.

“I am happy and satisfied after all we have been through. We feel like we are born again. We can make a fresh start,” Mohammad told Xinhua, obviously with a relax.

The mood of anxiety has been haunting him over the past 10 months since they joined migrants desperate for Europe last February.

Mohammad and his wife Aldefallah Rwaida were schoolteachers in Daraa, the southernmost city of Syria on the border with Jordan.

With conflicts between the rebels and the Syrian government’s forces becoming routine, the couple decided to leave for the sake of three children — 8-year-old daughter Lemar, 5-year-old son Alsaadi Souhaeb and two and half-year-old girl Lotous.

“You did not expect when the next attack would be. You were scared that someone will jump out from an alley and will start shooting. So, we decided to leave,” he said.

In fear of their children lives, they left Daraa last February and decided to make the journey to Europe.

It was long and painful. They spent nine days in crossing over Syria and reaching the borders with Turkey under harsh conditions.

They did not have time to feel tired. They had to get away.

“We were scared. If the Syrian army traced us, they would put us in prison, or if the rebels found us, they would make us fight for them,” he recalled.

Despite the hardships, Mohammad and his wife were firm. “There was no return. If we went back there was only death,” he said.

“When you leave a place where there are the ISIS and the rebels, you have made a significant step. There is no reason to go back,” Mohammad stressed.

Carrying personal bags, they traveled during the night by foot. With his youngest daughter Lamour in his arm, Mohammad, and his family, walked 17 hours to reach the Turkish border.

“In the Turkish borders, we were afraid. Besides of accidents, we were afraid of the police. If we were caught, they would have sent us back. Our journey would be back to zero,” Mohammad said.

The rest of the trip to Izmir was easier. “In Izmir, we spent two nights at the smugglers’ house waiting for calm seas to cross the Aegean Sea and reach a Greek island,” he told Xinhua.

They reached Chios island on March 3. As the borders were not closed yet, the procedure was very quick and they were sent to Athens and on the same day they traveled to Greece’s northern border in Idomeni.

“We did not have bath for five days. We had to wait for food all in line. I could not take for my children and my wife. They should be with me waiting for hours to get a cheese sandwich or an egg,” he recalled.

As the Balkan countries were gradually shutting down their borders to refugees, Mohammad and his family along with thousands of refugees were left trapped in Greece.

They were sent initially to a refugee camp in northern Greece, in Diavata for a few months.

“It was freezing. We had only five blankets. We lived in containers without heating. The cold air was coming in through the cracks. We had to stay close to warm ourselves. During the summer, it was hot, and we stayed outside under trees to feel better,” he said.

After six months in Diavata, the authorities moved them in a hotel in Grevena, a northern city of Greece, where they applied for relocation.

After interviews and medicals tests, they were accepted by Ireland.

Despite the initial plan to distribute thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Greece and Italy to other European countries, the record shows insufficient progress. A total of 5,843 refugees has been relocated from Greece.

According to the Greek Asylum Service, until November there have been recorded 20,827 applicants for international protection as eligible for the relocation program, while the number of resettlements provided by the European countries has reached 13,384.

“These figures demonstrate the need to offer positions by EU members at regular time periods and in numbers at least equivalent to the number of cases recorded in the relocation program,” an official from the Asylum Service told Xinhua.

According to the European Council’s figures, a total of 2,000 refugees eligible for international protection should be relocated every month to other EU states by September 2017.

Full of joy and relief, Mohammad and his family are waiting to get their air tickets to their new home in Ireland.

“We want to work, our children to go to school and to have a normal life,” Aldefallah Rwaida told Xinhua.

After ten months of danger, hardship and fear, all members of the family can smile again and breathe with optimism for the future.

As they wait for their departure day to come, Mohammad and his family stay in a temporary shelter in a hotel in the center of Athens, run by NGO SolidarityNow. Enditem

Source: Alexia Vlachou, Xinhua/


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