From sleeping under sniper fire to days without enough food or water, the Samir family have undertaken a perilous journey to escape a life of danger and to join family in the safety of Sweden.
Thursday September 10, 2015
Members of the Samir family, from Daraa in southern Syria, rest after crossing the Greek border. Photo: Corinne Ambler / IFRC
In a crowded tent on a dusty piece of ground near Gevgelija, in the Former Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia, the Samir family sits talking to a Red Cross doctor about the illnesses of the four children in the group. All around them, other children fight and wail, and Dr Sandra Ignjatovska has to shout to make herself heard.
"Take one with water. For the pain," she says, pointing to her throat and handing over a pill. She asks a colleague to shine the torch from his mobile phone down the child's throat so she can take a closer look. "And this one for her." She hands over a pill and points at a child who is suffering from diarrhoea, as the Arabic interpreter explains to the family what to do.
The Samir family has just crossed the border from Greece into FYR of Macedonia, after travelling for 20 days through Turkey and Greece from their home in Daraa, southern Syria. They are covered in dust, tired and traumatised but when asked how they are, the father of the children, 24-year-old Abukushlif Samir, and his mother, 47-year-old Fendiye Seyid, break into huge smiles.
"It is a little bit better here. This is the first time we have seen the Red Cross and a Red Cross doctor. The baby has a cold and a sore throat. And she gave the other girl medicine for fever and diarrhoea," Samir says. The four children are all under six years old. The two youngest girls are Samir's children and the older boy and girl are the children of his brother, who is living in Sweden-their ultimate destination. But the journey has not been easy.
"We were five days on the border of Syria and Turkey, sleeping in the open, and all the time there were shots and sniper fire from above. But it was worst in Turkey. The border with Greece was closed, and that was like hell. We were left with no mercy; without food and without water," Samir says.
The family is being cared for by volunteers from the Red Cross of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the short time they are in the country waiting to catch a train north to the border with Serbia. They are given food, water, nappies and hygiene kits. Samir's wife is still in Syria, too unwell to travel after a difficult childbirth, but he hopes to be reunited with her when he gets to Sweden. He is glad she did not make this difficult trip.
"It was very bad on the sea. We closed the children's eyes so they could not see and gave them sleeping pills so they could be calm. We were seven hours on the water and we almost drowned - the little boat we were in had 70 people and it kept filling with water. The boat behind us with 60 people sank and they all drowned. There were many babies; we saw it all happening right in front of our eyes," he says.
The adults use this brief respite in their long trek to give the children a wash out in the hot sun, using the bottled water provided by Red Cross. Baby Ayar squeals with delight and splashes around in the puddles. Her grandmother washes her only dress and hangs it on the wire fence to dry.
By night time the family has gone, heading north to Serbia and Hungary and hopefully to family in Sweden.
Syria Crisis Appeal: Donate now
Four years on, and the conflict in Syria shows no signs of ending. More than 12 million Syrians remain inside Syria and need urgent help. Another four million are struggling to survive in neighbouring countries. You can help.
Donate now and help us provide support to those in need in practical, life-saving ways.
How Red Cross is helping refugees in Europe
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is on the ground, including in Greece, Macedonia, Italy, Serbia and Hungary, providing refugees with food, water, hygiene kits and other essential goods. Volunteers and staff are also providing emergency health assistance, re-connecting family members and providing psychosocial support.
More information about how the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is helping the refugee crisis in Europe can be found at www.ifrc.org.
Refugee crisis in Europe: what you can do
There are a number of ways you can help, both here in Australia and overseas. Here are six things you can do to help the refugee crisis.