After fleeing war in Syria and spending years with little or no prospects in a Lebanese refugee camp, Louiy Saloum decided the only way to find a secure life for himself and his family was to make the journey to Europe.
Tuesday September 15, 2015
Migrants seek shelter from the heat in Gevgelija. Thousands of migrants are crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia on the Western Balkans migratory route, many fleeing conflict and persecution. Photo: Corinne Ambler
Hundreds of 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 US$15 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. Saloum is optimistic, but fears they will still be rejected when they reach their destination.
"I fear they will send us back to Syria where there are terrorists and war. And even if the war ends, there will still be terrorists."
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.
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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.
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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.