The fear of a grinding war that had already scattered his family across Europe, left 55 year-old Ahmet* with no other choice but to also flee Syria. Italy was the promised destination. From there, it would have been easy to move on to Germany to unify with their brothers and two eldest sons – at least this is what Ahmet, his wife, daughter, and son were led to believe.
“I was born in Homs and I wanted to live there until the end, but this vicious war left us no other choice but to leave all behind… For the sake of my children’s future we had to take the risk.
I had to pay the smuggler eight thousand US dollars for each member of my family. I’ve never done anything illegal in my whole life, but there was no other solution.”
With 339 others, they sailed on a flimsy fishing boat, which the smugglers abandoned during the journey. They were rescued from the rough seas, off the coast of Cyprus. Ahmet is now staying with his family in a tent at a refugee camp near Nicosia, which was set up to temporarily host the 339 survivors; children, women and men.
The relief they initially felt when they were saved was substituted by disappointment and anxiety for their future. So far only six survivors have applied for asylum. Most of them are reluctant to do so out of fear that their application for asylum in Cyprus will remove their prospects of being reunited with their families in other EU member states. Ahmet says:
“I will think about my options, but I’m certainly not going at sea again. I left for the future of my kids; I’m not going to die with them in the sea. Life is not over.”
*Name changed for protection reasons