This is Mohammad’s story. In a series of blogs this week he will be talking us through his journey from Syria to Greece and the difficulties he faced along the way. You can find the first blog here.
This time the main thing I was worried about wasn’t the journey to Greece, but my wheelchair. If I lost it this time, I wouldn’t be able to buy another one because I was broke.
Thankfully, the smuggler agreed to get me a wheelchair. It was old and broken, but for me it was better than nothing or being carried around on my nephew’s back.
I tried with the smuggler two more unsuccessful attempts. The first failed because there were two cars; the first of which had an accident and an old woman died. Fortunately, I was in the second one.
The second attempt didn’t work either because two different groups of smugglers started to shoot each other while we were inside the boat. At that moment I started to think to myself that I didn’t want go to Greece anymore. But again, I thought about my family and I said, “Let’s try another a last attempt, Mohammad. Do it for them.”
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By that time, I had realised that all smugglers belonged to the same mafia, so wherever I went I would find the same troubles. After staying for more than five months in Turkey, I felt like I had lost my value as a human being. Nobody dealt with me as a person, all of them were looking at me as if I were a bag of money. They just wanted to get as much as they could out of me. I knew my only two options were Greece or Syria, even if the regime prisons were waiting for me.
After nine failed attempts to cross from Turkey to Greece, my nephew was angry with Nasser. This 10th attempt had to pay off.
On arrival, We entered an old house with a small yard. Once everyone had checked in a man divided us into three groups. I asked my nephew to count the people who were in the house: 47 adults and 10 kids.
Our journey lasted four hours. When we arrived they told us to be quiet and to get out quickly. We were in an olive grove, it brought back horrible memories of the first smuggler I had to deal with. One of the smugglers told us to stay quiet during the night. He continued, “The boat will leave tomorrow morning at 8am.”
It was September, the beginning of autumn, so nights were getting colder. I just had the clothes I was wearing. I started to shiver and the Palestinian man gave me a scarf, asking me to hold on. “Just seven more hours and everything will be ok,” he said nicely. At 5am it began to rain.
We waited two hours until a car came. Four men got out of the car and started to prepare the boat. An hour later they came to ask us to get ready, but before we got inside they asked which one of us would drive it. Silence.
One of the smugglers added: “The one who drives the boat, will not pay the cost of the journey”. An Iraqi man accepted to drive it but his wife was not sure, and they started to argue. She didn’t think he’d be able to drive the boat. The smuggler got angry and began to shout at us. He raised a gun and forced us to get into the boat. “Go straight to that island,” he said to the Iraqi man, pointing his finger to land in the horizon.
At 9am, the new journey began. All 57 of us were on this boat. Some women began to cry, others began to pray. After 30 minutes of sailing, there wasn’t any reference point, the only thing we could see was sky and water. We were just a black point on a blue immensity. If anything had happened to the boat, we would have died. The only thing I wanted, if I didn’t survive this attempt, was for my family to know everything I did for them. I wanted my wife and my daughters to be proud of me.
After one hour of sailing, full of emotional thoughts and tears of fear, I started to worry I wouldn’t see my family again. Then a fellow passenger pointed out a boat following us. When I heard that, I thought it was the Turkish guards again. “Which colour is the flag?” I asked. The boat approached and we saw that it wasn’t red, but neither blue. It was red, white and green. It was an Italian vessel.
The Italian ship came nearby our boat. The crew asked us to stay in our places. They put a gang plank across and asked the passengers to get off one by one, starting with the women and children. Next it was the turn of the men and then I would be the last off the vessel. They carried me to the deck and I asked them, “Where are you taking us?” “To Greece, Lesvos,” they replied.
Everybody was excited and happy, but more than anything we were feeling relieved our tragedy in Turkey had come to an end. Our dreams were coming true.
One of the crew men told me that they had called the port asking for a wheelchair for me but couldn’t promise that there would be one waiting for me. After two hours on the Italian ship, we arrived at the port. There was a blue military bus waiting for us. We landed and got onto the bus. As it was predicted, there was no wheelchair for me, so my nephew carried me on his back.
We arrived to Moria camp. Unfortunately, despite thinking all my sufferings had ended and that everything would be ok, the camp had problems of its own.
You can find part six of Mohammad’s blogs here.
You can donate to Mohammad’s JustGiving page below: