The desparate journeys of tens of thousands of people seeking refuge in Europe

The New York Times reports: Aieh is blond and scrappy, with an elfin face and a heart condition. She is 2 and a half years old, but looks more like six months. Her mother, Samar Joukhadar, has carried her from Syria in a pouch hanging on her chest. Her goal is to get her to a doctor who can operate on her heart.

For now, they sit at the railroad track in Idomeni, Greece, waiting to cross the border to the Gevgelija transit camp in Macedonia.

Aieh’s father is a doctor, but the officials at the Syrian government-owned hospital where he worked hassled him until he fled to Yemen, leaving his family behind, Ms. Joukhadar said. He is working in a hospital there. But, she said, that hospital is not capable of doing the operation her daughter needs.

Besides, she says: “I want to find somewhere where there are no Arabs. Europeans are better people. The Arabs hurt us a lot.”

Europe was not their first choice, Ms. Joukhadar said. She tried to find a doctor in Saudi Arabia who would do the operation, but she could not.

Ms. Joukhadar left Syria with her three children and her brother and his two children. They went to Turkey and tried to leave from Mersin, a city on the Mediterranean coast, by boat in December 2014. But the smugglers stole her money — $12,000. She went to the police and gave them names and photographs, but nothing happened, she said.

Finally, they were able to leave from Izmir by dinghy, paying $1,200 per person. They landed on Lesbos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea that has seen a surge in refugees and migrants since the beginning of the year.

As she spoke, Aieh fidgeted and then started to cry. A cousin, Sidra, 15, took her into her arms and fed her a bottle, quieting her down.

Once they reached Athens, they slept on the streets for five days, Ms. Joukhadar said. She made a budget of 50 euros a day for herself, her brother and the five children between them. With that, they were able to eat one meal a day, usually a chicken and potato sandwich.

She had not spoken to her husband in four or five months, she said. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email