Moments of dignity

Publié: 1 septembre 2015 19:39 CET

By John Engedal Nissen, IFRC

The water runs down one-year-old Hasar’s body. Her mother, Ayaat, holds her while her father, Thaen, pours the water from a plastic bottle onto her curly hair to rinse away the shampoo. The bath, a normal activity in her homeland of Syria, is considered a luxurious moment of dignity in her life today as a vulnerable refugee.

Hasar and her family spent 10 days travelling through Turkey and Greece to cross the border into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where the Red Cross has provided them with water, food, nappies and a hygiene kit. Sitting in a tent, her sister, four-year old Faten, plays with toys spread over a tarpaulin on the ground.

“We feel respected here as human beings. The aid makes a big difference. Our daughters can sleep and rest,” says Thaen and emphasizes that this hasn’t been the case on the journey so far.

People have exploited their situation selling them overpriced water and food. They slept on the street.

“They’ve been very frightened and have cried very much,” Thaen says.

The worst experience for the family was crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece. They had to pay $1,500 US dollars for each of them to travel in a small and overloaded inflatable boat at 3am.

“We prayed  the whole time, fearing we would drown,” says Thaen.

As they approached the first Greek island, their boat was punctured after hitting rocks beneath the water. Chaos ensued and the boat capsized. Thaen tried to swim with his oldest daughter on his shoulders. He was smashed into the rocks by the waves, he explains, while showing the scars on his arms.

“We have faced death. The journey has been very difficult,” he says.

Thaen and his family lived a comfortable life in Aleppo, Syria. Ayaat worked as a nurse and Thaen had his own shop selling mobile phones. But the conflict made it impossible to stay. Prices were soaring, bombs were falling and their two daughters saw so much fighting that they began to play war with each other.

“We didn’t want to raise our daughters in that environment, so we left Syria for their sake. We just need peace to live a safe life, but there is no such place in Syria.”

They sold everything to raise money for the journey. Their ultimate destination is Germany where many Syrians have moved, and where Ayaat’s brother currently lives.

For now, Thaen, Ayaat, Hasaar and Faten rest for a while as they wait to catch a train to the Serbian border on their long journey.

The Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been responding to the migrant crisis throughout the country since the start of June 2015 and now has seven mobile response teams working every day 24/7.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 193,218 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help meet emergency needs and reduce the vulnerabilities of 10,000 people.