Report reveals Syriacs’ rocky journey out of Syria
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Pope Benedict XVI (2nd R) listens to Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch at the St. Paul basilica in the mountain town of Harisa, Lebanon. AP photoMany Aramean Syriacs fleeing the violence in Syria for European countries via Turkey are either sent to refugee camps or jails, according to a recent report prepared by the Swedish-based NGO the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs).
The report, titled “Aramean (Syriac) Refugees from Syria into Greece via Turkey: A Case Study of Refugees in Need in Athens,” says Aramean migrants first try to reach Istanbul, then go to Greece and then on to a third country. However, many are sent to jail or to refugee camps after being discovered.
The report will be sent to the relevant bodies of the U.N. and the EU. “Some 300 Aramean Christian families have escaped from Syria and fled to Greece to seek refugee … We have worked with clergy from the Syriac Orthodox Church in order to uncover some of their stories. The refugees told us how they had crossed the borders into Turkey, some through legal and others through illegal borders,” World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) President Johny Messo told Hürriyet Daily News.
“They left Syria because they feel threatened and intimidated. They did not want to fight in this war and fear an uncertain future,” he said.Messo said all the refugees were afraid of what comes next for them in Greece. “Many stay in dismal and depressing situations, afraid to leave their new houses, hoping not to be robbed, arrested or forced back to Syria.
They are all trying to leave Greece for either Sweden or Germany, where their other family members are located,” he said. According to the report, human traffickers ask for approximately 4000 euros for adults and 2000 euros for children to pass into Europe. It also says that 76 percent of the refugees come from Qamisli, 12 percent from Hassake and 12 percent from Malikeye (Derik). Around 65 percent are male and 35 percent are female. The journey to Greece is not safe and a number of refugees have almost died, with three or four times the safe number of people cramming together onto unsafe boats.
The report also includes stories from the refugees themselves. Abdo Ablahad, 29, escaped from Syria on July 18. He went from Derik across the Turkish border and on to Istanbul. After arriving Istanbul he met a 16-year-old Iranian smuggler who transported him to Greece for 1,500 euros. Ablahad made the journey with approximately 50 other refugees from Syria, including Sunnis and Alevis. He has made three attempts to get to Germany, which is where his whole family lives, through Greece’s Thessaloniki airport, but he was caught by the police each time. Although he has a fake Italian passport, the police now know him.
Stayfo Sharbel, 20, was an economics student in Haseki. However, his Aramean university friend was kidnapped and his parents told him to stop going to university. They also wanted him to leave to country because there were calls for him to be drafted into the army and he did not want to fight in the war. Sharbel crossed the border into Turkey and later arrived in Istanbul.
There was no motor so the group he was with had to row across approximately 50 kilometers to get to a Greek island. However, when they landed the police caught and sent them to jail. Sharbel wants to go on to Sweden and has tried but failed on three occasions to reach there from Thessaloniki Airport. His family has remained in Syria, and he is unsure of his future.