Hope lost in Greece, some Syr­i­ans pay smug­glers to get home

Pakistan Observer - - 07 -

DIDIMOTICHO, Greece—Europe seemed like the promised land, worth risk­ing their lives to reach. But in a muddy field on the north­ern edge of Greece, their dreams died. Now, dozens of Syr­ian refugees are risk­ing their lives again but in the op­po­site di­rec­tion — pay­ing smug­glers to take them back to Turkey, and head­ing home.

Rather than brave the of­ten treach­er­ous waves of the Aegean again, they face the dan­ger­ous cur­rents of the Evros River, which runs along the Greek-Turk­ish bor­der. Each night, groups of mi­grants and refugees hud­dle at the rail­way sta­tion of the small bor­der town of Didimoticho, about 3 kilo­me­ters (2 miles) from the fron­tier, set­ting up small tents and wait­ing for their chance to cross.

Among them is Atia Al Jassem, a 27-year-old Syr­ian bar­ber from Da­m­as­cus who is head­ing east with his wife and 1-year-old daugh­ter af­ter spend­ing months stuck on the Greek-Mace­do­nian bor­der, watch­ing his hopes of reach­ing Europe ebb away.

“I am go­ing to Turkey, I do not want Europe any more. Fin­ished,” he says, sit­ting in a small park near the rail­way sta­tion in Thessaloniki, Greece’s main north­ern city, where he, his 20-year-old wife Yas­mine Ra­madan and their daugh­ter Legine, who they call Loulou, spend what they hope will be their last night in the coun­try.

“We are re­ally tired. We’re de­stroyed and I have a baby. I ask God to help me get back to Turkey,” he says. “In Syria un­der the bombs we would be bet­ter off than here.”

The fam­ily ar­rived in Greece on Feb. 24, cross­ing the Aegean and then mak­ing their way north. But their jour­ney to Ger­many was cut short at the Greek-Mace­do­nian bor­der. Al Jassem and his fam­ily stayed for months in Idomeni, a sprawl­ing im­promptu refugee camp that sprang up on the Greek-Mace­do­nian bor­der.— AP

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