Yamman and Fatma are a young couple from Syria. Together with their children, Abdalrahman and Omar, they are among the first group of refugees to relocate to Sweden.
“I’m so happy to relocate to Sweden, I really wanted to go there. It is a good country, a safe place for our children and for us. Also, my brother is there for a number of years, so I will meet him again. Before the war, I was studying computer technology at the university in Syria. I wanted to continue with my studies, to do something more but the war broke and I had to stop. It was very difficult. Men were forcibly recruited to the government’s army and if I stayed, I’d have to kill people, but I don’t want to hurt anybody. I left Syria 5 years ago, alone. At first, I stayed in Turkey for 4 months and then I went to Egypt. I spent there about ten months and then I moved back to Turkey, were I stayed for 2.5 years. At that time, my then fiancé, Fatma joined me there. Our first child was born in Turkey and by the time Fatma was pregnant on our second, we left for Greece.
Like so many others, we crossed the sea on a rubber boat and it was a terrifying adventure. About 30 minutes into the journey, the boat stopped, it was about 4 am in the night. We drifted for hours. We called the emergency number and the Greek coast-guard came with a boat and took only the women and children. They told us that they’d take our families to Greece and that they’d come back for us, the men. So they left, but it was the Turkish coast-guard that arrived instead, 30 minutes later. Maybe we had drifted towards Turkey, I don’t know. They told us that they had to take us back to Turkey. I got very angry. I speak Turkish, I explained to them that our families were already taken to Greece. But they insisted and they took us back and since they were really angry, we didn’t resist. In Turkey, they checked our papers and they let us go. However, I had all of the family’s passports and our only mobile phone. Fatma, terrified, ended up all alone with our child on a tiny Greek island. Fortunately, I was able to take another boat the next day and joined my family on the island of Kastelorizo. It was the 19th of February 2017.
Then, the coast-guard moved us to the island of Rhodes where we got registered. Another boat journey took us to Athens. We decided to continue to the border, which was still open. It took us five days to get to the makeshift camp of Idomeni. We crossed Greece sleeping rough, one night at a basketball court, another night at a restaurant. We spent three weeks at Idomeni, waiting to cross, to no avail. We were given the number 136 and the last number allowed to cross was 65. So, we came back to Athens and went directly to the Asylum service and applied for the relocation programme. We were given an apartment in the centre and waited for the news. In the meantime, our time here was well-spent. Greece is the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. We visited the Acropolis, a lot of other sites, we took the kids to the beach. We have almost become locals. And the people here are simple and very supportive to the refugees, we never had any problems. Three weeks ago we got the news that we’re going to Sweden. We’ll have to learn the language, but I don’t mind since I love learning languages and meeting new people. I would like to continue with my studies and look for a job. I don’t want to sit around doing nothing. I need to update my training on computer technology, it’s been 5 years that I graduated and I really have to learn again, to follow the new developments. And Fatima, too, wishes to continue with her studies as well, she actually wants to be a nurse. I hope we will be able as parents to provide a safe, beautiful life to our children in our new home in Sweden”.
Through the EU Relocation Programme, the International Organization for Migration in Greece (IOM) supports the Government of Greece in relocating with safety and dignity asylum seekers to other EU Member States of Relocation (MSR). The Programme is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union (AMIF).