Six refugees tell their stories

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At the Sonnenberg TopTagung six refugees from St. Andreasberg, a nearby refugee reception center, told their stories, - terrible stories about the sufferings on the way to Europe. Read and watch here.

1. Seeking treatment for sick old father
Nisrin is from Aleppo. Her father was ill. During the fighting in Aleppo, she and her sister had to leave their house. They paid a smuggler to cross the border and came with their old father to a camp in Turkey. Here they had to pay for their father's treatment, but jobs were scarce – they found a job every 10th day only - and poorly paid, so in the end they decided to move on to Europe.

2. Seeking freedom for herself and her daughter
Gita is from Afghanistan. She was forced by her parents to marry a person, she did not like. Women in Afghanistan have no freedom, only anxiety, she said. So she decided to leave Afghanistan with her daughter and go to Germany, thinking: My daughter should not have a destiny like mine.

But it was not easy. They had to go to Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, before they finally arrived in Germany. Often on foot, crossing rivers and mountains. Now she felt tired, but she is happy to be a woman here, and together with her daughter.

3. Threatened by Taleban
Najib is a young computer engineer, trained Kabul university, and a musician. "My passion is to play music and see the smiles on people's faces", he said.

Short clip with Najib on crossing the mountains

One day when he came back from a music stunt, his father showed him a letter saying that he should stop playing music. He did not understand, thought there were some people kidding him. But when he was on his way back from a football match some days later, four people stopped his car. Did you not get a letter? Playing music is against Islam, he was told. He said yes, and promised he would never play music in Afghanistan again.

His father warned him: Afghanistan is not safe for you any more. His father warned him against taking a visa for Iran, as Afghans are looked down upon by Iranians. So, he went to the Turkish embassy to ask for a visa, but to get that you need to buy a house in Turkey, he was told. So he went to Iran and travelled to the Turkish border, found a smuggler and agreed to pay 1.000 dollars to cross. First they had to wait for 10 days in a stable. Then they walked for 17 hours in the snow across the mountains. There were children and a pregnant woman among them.

On the coast of Turkey he was together with a cousin of his. They had great difficulties in finding an honest smuggler, but that story was to be told by Arif, his cousin. "I was shocked when we came to Greece and saw people waiting to welcome us", he said. "It was a very beautiful moment. People react like humans".  

4. Family losses
Haji's father was a police officer in town, with many friends in Europe, and he went to France for visits a number of times. That created problems with the Taleban. His father was killed. Haji himself had worked with American soldiers and with a Christian community, and when the man who killed his father was killed himself, Haji came under suspicion that he had revenged himself.
He tried to disappear, but in the end he had to leave with his family. They got a one-month visa for Iran, but the day before they were to leave, Haji's mother broke both legs. So, they spent two months in Iran. They could not get an extension of stay, however.

They came to Turkey with some difficulty, and here they met a smuggler, sat in a bus for many hours without food or drink, and his mother died on the way. But they did come to Greece in an overfilled boat, but Haji's brother got ill from the cold. He spent 1 day in hospital in Athens, then they had to move on to Macedonia, and to Serbia, where the brother was taken to hospital a 2nd time, and in Croatia a 3rd time.

But now they are all in Germany, and the brother is recovering. Haji's hope: That my children can work in this country even if he himself might not have that chance.

5. Arif's five smugglers
Arif worked as a driver for the UN in Kabul, but he left his family in Logar away from Kabul. One day his brother called to say: Don't come home. Some Taleban people had come to their house saying: We know your brother works with the U.N. and with the Americans in Kabul. So he decided to leave with his wife and his two- and seven-year old children.

When they got to Turkey they found a smuggler who claimed 1.800 dollars per person to take them to Greece – on a real ship, he promised, but that was a lie. They waited, slept in horse stables and even a pigsty, but did not get anywhere.

They found a second smuggler, but he was also a liar. He made them wait for four days without food and took them to a forest, where there were 10 other persons waiting. The smuggler said said "Wait, I'll be back in half an hour". They waited for four hours, it got dark, and the children got scared.  
 
Smuggler no. 3 said he knew a better way, but he claimed 2.500 dollars pro person. They had to wait little because of the weather, he said. They waited for 14 days. Then one night at around midnight he told them "We are leaving at 4 in the morning". The boat was for 20, but there were 35 on board. They sailed for 20 minutes, then they were stopped by Turkish police and taken to prison.

"They were not very good to us in the prison", Arif said. They sat in a cell without windows, his children got ill. But they did get some of the money back – 2000 dollars.

Smuggler no. 4 charged 2.200 dollars per person – for going on a very small boat. They had to wait until the boat got filled, in a hotel, and were joined by other people who, they discovered, had paid 5.000 dollars each. They sailed out, and after two hours they saw light from Greece. But the captain said he saw Greek police boats somewhere, so they sailed a different way. The waves got bigger, it was cold. One of Arif's children could not speak any more, they thought he was dead. They sailed for six hours, then there was no more diesel. They realized that the waves pushed them back towards Turkey, and indeed, they came back to where they had started. All were tired, wet, cold, some could not speak. The smugglers left them in the forest.

When they finally found a taxi they had to give their mobile phones (handies) to get to town, and there they spent two weeks looking for a smuggler.

Smuggler no. 5 was no good either, so finally they came back to no. 1 again. But now he only had rubber dinghies available, at 800 euro per person. And this time they succeeded, totally wet, but they were given dry clothes, and now they are in Germany.


6. Fahima, third time lucky
60-year-old Fahima from Aleppo, Syria, came to Turkey with a smuggler, and stayed 2 ½ years there. Her husband was ill. He had heart problems, and medicine is expensive in Turkey, so they could not pay. They decided to go to Europe and found a smuggler.

They were 55 in a rubber dinghy suited for 30 and sailed out, but they were caught by Turkish police and spent 6 days in prison. Then they tried again.

It was only the third time that they succeeded – after three hours in the water. In Greece people were friendly, but after three days in Greece they continued through Macedonia, Serbia "and I don't know how many countries". Fahima got ill on the way, and her legs and feet started to hurt. But they survived.

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