Fleeing Syria

A life turned upside down

GMT 18:38 Wednesday ,15 April 2015

 Migrant Voice - A life turned upside down

Necola Moussa

Angelina is a 37-year-old Syrian mother with three children who lived with her family in Damascus. Her life was turned upside down when her husband went missing, the civil war escalated and Angelina felt she had to seek safety for her children.

She had only enough money to fund her journey for herself and her four-year-old son. She left the other children with her cousin in the hope that they would join her later.

She made her way to Lebanon, where she caught a boat to the Turkish town of Mersin. Unable to find a boat to Italy she got to Istanbul, spent a week in Aksaray Square and met an Arab agent, or smuggler, Nimr (‘Tiger’), who offered to take her to Greece. This attempt proved unsuccessful so she had to find another helper.

After two more unsuccessful attempts she and 48 other Syrians crammed into a rubber boat arrived in Greece. They were detained for four days before being moved to a refugee camp for 10 days, and then to another camp in Athens.

Angelina looked for smugglers to help her get to another European country, but negotiations were complicated because the smugglers wanted to transport her son separately, which she of course rejected.

Finally, another smuggler drove them to Bulgaria. Arriving at midnight, she had to scramble over barbed wire to cross to Romania. Bleeding, and with a flat cellphone battery, she was cold, hungry and in pain, alone with her son, in the open. That day she wished she had died.

At 7am she found a hotel and contacted the smuggler who returned to take them through Romania to the border with Hungary. The smuggler instructed her to wait until it got dark and then walk across the border. She did, but was arrested. The police took them to a refugee camp and took their passports. Next morning the police booked them train tickets to a refugee camp in Budapest.

Instead, Angelina contacted the smuggler again. He picked them up and drove them to the Netherlands. She applied for asylum as her brother and a cousin were living there in another camp.

She felt safe and wanted to end her journey there and start building her life - but was raped in the camp in front of her son. This horrific experience messed up her life again. She felt she could not report the rape for fear that if her relatives found out they would kill her for bringing shame on the family.

She fled the camp and contacted the smuggler again. He drove her and her son to Calais.

A family saw her sleeping rough with her son and offered them shelter and food for five weeks. She travelled from Calais in a refrigerated food truck, arriving in the UK.

Her 3,764 kilometre journey from Damascus to London had taken five months.

 
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