Syrian families: Refugees and migrants in search of safety for many years

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Refugee Crisis
By John Engedal Nissen, IFRC | September 09, 2015

Louiy Saloum (37) from Ma'arat al-Nu'man in Syria with two of his sons Hundreds of refugees and migrants sit at the southern border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, waiting for transport going north to the Serbian border, a notorious route for thousands of people hoping to find refuge in a member state of the European Union.

Louiy Saloum, a 37-year-old father of three, is among the group, sitting in the shade while his youngest daughter, Fatima, gets a bath. This Syrian family has been in search of safety for many years. When the conflict in their homeland first began, Saloum gathered up his loved ones and joined more than one million other Syrians in fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon. But, he says, support for the refugees was inadequate.

“We received $15 USD for food for a whole month. We are five persons, and it was not enough, neither for food nor water,” says Saloum, adding that they were often discriminated against because of their different nationality and religious beliefs.

“There is no future in Lebanon for me or my children,” he says. “Everything was very expensive, and I could only get short term jobs from time to time, and even so, I wasn’t always paid for the work I did.”

Eight days ago the family decided to move again, travelling from Turkey to Greece on their way further into Europe. It was a nerve-wracking journey, one Saloum was not sure they would survive. The family climbed into a small inflatable boat, together with 60 other migrants. The men sat on the outside, while women and children sat on the inside. For two and a half hours they crossed the Aegean Sea, watching helplessly as wave after wave splashed into the overcrowded boat, filling it with water.

“We did not know what would happen to us or if we would reach our destination. I was so worried for my children and my wife. ‘Oh, what have I done?’ I thought to myself.”

They managed to make it to shore, where they were greeted by Red Cross volunteers who provided them with water, food, and hygiene supplies. The number of daily arrivals in this area is now at approximately 4,000. Saloum is optimistic, but fears they will still be rejected when they reach their destination.

“I fear they will send us back to Syria.”

Together with other Red Cross Movement partners, the Canadian Red Cross is actively supporting Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Syria and Lebanon as well as previously in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq who are providing food, household items and life-saving health services to internally displaced persons. 

Photo: John Engedal Nissen / IFRC