Bulgaria: The Red Cross helps Syrian family reunite

Published: 23 April 2014 13:41 CET

By Dimitrina Popova, Bulgarian Red Cross

Berivan together with her parents, younger sister, two brothers and other members of her extended family took the difficult and dangerous journey across the border between Turkey and Bulgaria in November 2013, having fled the war in Syria several months before.

The smugglers, who organized their escape, ordered the family and the rest of the group of around 25 fugitives to run across the border during the night. In their run, the 20-year-old and two of her cousins got separated from the group, scattering in the dark forest. Late in the morning the border guards found Berivan and only one of her cousins, the 14-year-old Bashar. Nobody knew the whereabouts of the 19 year-old-Abdul.

Berivan and Bashar were transported to the temporary accommodation center in Elhovo for three days then transferred to the center in Harmanli. Some days later the border found Abdul and took him to the Harmanli camp, where his two other cousins were.

Meanwhile, Berivan´s family hadn`t managed to cross the border that night and returned back to Turkey without knowing the fate of the lost girl and the two boys. In late November the family made their way across the border once again. Once in Bulgaria the smugglers abandoned them in the forest, where they spent the next two days without food and drinking water. The family was arrested by the guards and sent to a center in Elhovo at first, and then to the accommodation center in Kovachevtsi.

The helping hand

Leila and her sister, Nadja, the broken-hearted mothers of Berivan and the two cousins respectively, asked the Bulgarian Red Cross to search for their lost children.

After some weeks of letter-writing and holding official meetings with the Bulgarian asylum-seeking institutions, Svetloslav Roussev - responsible for restoring family links on behalf of the Bulgarian Red Cross - found Berivan and the two boys in the Harmanli center.

When Roussev reunited the family in the Kovachevtsi centre a couple of days before the New Year, the joy of the family was overwhelming.

“I have no words,” said Berivan that day surrounded by her family. “We are very thankful what the Red Cross did for us. Thank you so much!”, she added visibly overwhelmed by the recent series of dramatic events: fleeing a war, separating from her family and the joyful reunion at last.  

Her mother celebrated the return of the daughter alongside her sister Nadja, whom the Red Cross also reunited with her sons.

“God will give you health for what you have done for us!” she exclaims.  “I cried so much, we could not believe that we are together again” said Nadja, who only bemoans the fact that her husband and their third son stayed behind in Syria.

Berivan and her family is part of a strong influx of Syrian refugees into Bulgaria, which began in September 2013. The number of Syrian in Bulgaria reached 10.000 in March 2014.

Since September 2013 the Bulgarian Red Cross has been doing its best to support the asylum seekers through provision of food and other relief items. The organization provides psychosocial support to the refugee children and young people, and is trying to restore family links. So far Bulgarian Red Cross has managed to find and reunite four families who got separated during the border crossing.