A long road to Germany, but one doctor intends to return as soon as his family is safe

Publié: 23 septembre 2015 22:37 CET

Oscar Velasco, Communication Delegate of the IFRC at Greece

The Idomeni border between the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia and Greece is the main crossing point for refugees and migrants coming from the Greek islands and from the Piraeus port. During busy times it becomes a real bottleneck. This is because those on the border must follow a strict procedure and border guards are dealing with 50 people every 30 minutes.

This slow process makes increases anxiety as people wait and many seem on the verge of a nervous breakdown, especially for those who have been waiting for two or three days. But the situation is changeable: one evening there are 9,000 people waiting to pass and the next day there may be only 300.

The volunteers’ activity from the Salonica and Kilkis local branches of the Hellenic Red Cross is frantic. When they arrive at 10am, they set up a canopy to protect from sun, wind and dust. The Samaritans, social workers, nurses, they all work together to do their best and go through this struggling and stressful situation.

The Red Cross symbol is well-recognized and attracts people seeking support; food, water or clothes. Others have injuries sustained during their long travels. There are injuries to feet, dehydration, diarrhea, back pain and the usual array of coughs and headaches.

Many hope the Red Cross can mediate with the border guards and speed their passed to the other side, especially the most vulnerable; elderly, pregnant women, children, babies and the seriously wounded.

One young man approaches for a different reason; he is a former doctor with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent – an association which is quite common among refugees. Mohammad Salem comes from the city of Daraa and by profession his is an oncologist.

He speaks low and quietly. He has travelled before; to London to assist to international meetings, and to Ukraine’s Poltava Oncology Hospital to treat victims of cancer on the Chernobyl area.

In Syria he worked in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia. “A lot of people are dying in Syria from cancer and they don’t receive any treatment. There’s no medicine. They suffer so much and nobody talks about that,” he said.

He has travelled with his family and are planning to get to Germany where his sister lives.

Recently, he says, he was taken from his hospital and beaten by ISIS fighters, but his intention is to return as soon as possible. “Regardless of ISIS, I’ll go back to Syria, maybe to Homs or Aleppo hospital. I’m not scared. I love my family, but after they’re settles in Germany or the Netherlands, I will go back to Syria because they really need me there.”