Voyage of danger
Desperate migrants push ahead as they make the perilous journey into Europe
Just over 48 hours after three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body was photographed lying in the surf on a Turkish beach, another Syrian family was bracing itself for the same journey. They were all too aware of the chilling resonances with the Kurdi family: they would be setting off just a few kilometres from where the family had set off three days earlier. The boat would be crammed and, most importantly, they also had a young child, a five-month-old daughter.
But, as the Telegraph of London reported, Rasha and Kosayare were determined to forge ahead.
“We are very much afraid,” Rasha (28), from the eastern Syrian city of Deir Al-Zor said. “We know it is very dangerous.” But nothing will deter the young family. “All the money we have, $3 000 (R41 000), we have given to them.
“In Syria we sold our house, our car, everything. We were happy before the war. We had no reason to leave. Now we are here, doing this,” she said.
In an effort to avoid the Kurdi’s tragic fate, the couple had bought life jackets from a shop in Bodrum, a resort town in Turkey, and a tiny life-saving vest for their daughter, Bana.
The couple said they were aware of the fate that had befallen the Kurdi’s. They were sitting under a palm tree along the waterfront, just a few kilometres from where Wednesday’s tragedy took place, biding their time until nightfall.
At 2am they expected to be collected by smugglers driving a van and taken to a beach opposite Kos, which lies just 4km across the water from Bodrum.
Said Rasha: “They [the smugglers] will take us to the beach in a closed van so the police don’t see us. The boat is very small and they put 40 people in it. We know it is very dangerous.”
Thousands more of their compatriots were crossing into Austria after Hungary conceded to pressure and ferried them there by bus, reported the BBC.
Hungary had blocked them from travelling by train for days, but it relented on Friday night after about 1 200 refugees – some in wheelchairs or on crutches, others barefoot, some with children in strollers, others with toddlers on their shoulders – set off on the almost 180km journey on foot.
With international train services already frozen and the march blocking a major highway, Hungary decided that if the migrants wanted to leave the country so badly, officials would help them do so.
So it provided 104 rickety buses for some 4 500 people. The scenes at the Austrian border at Nickelsdorf early yesterday were chaotic, with the Hungarians making the migrants walk the final distance to the border in the rain.
Wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags against the chilly downpour, lines of weary migrants – many carrying small, sleeping children – climbed off buses on the Hungarian side of the border and walked into Austria, receiving fruit and water from aid workers. There were portable toilets and some Austrians held signs that read “Refugees welcome”.
Austrian Red Cross workers at a makeshift centre greeted the migrants with blankets and tea.
“I feel [at] home,” said Ayaz Morad, one of the first to arrive. “This is a great land – nice people, nice government.”
The migrants were then taken to Vienna by bus and rail.
Special trains to the capital were leaving Nickelsdorf every half-hour. Many refugees immediately boarded trains for Germany, with several hundreds arriving at Munich station hours later.
Buses had been prepared to ferry migrants to reception centres throughout Bavaria and to Germany’s other 16 states to ensure that people were cared for properly, Simone Hilgers, spokesperson for the local government, said yesterday.
“Our top priority is to move people as quickly as possible to a safe place where they can be cared for. Nobody should have to wait outside,” she said.
Bavarian police said they were expecting between 5 000 and 10 000 arrivals yesterday.
Georg Streiter, a deputy spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Germany and Austria had decided late on Friday to allow migrants stranded in Budapest to enter their countries and apply for asylum there.
“It was an impossible situation,” Streiter said. “It had to be resolved.”
The officials were concerned that without any official agreement, there could be violence at the Austro-Hungarian border when the migrants reached it.
But a German official said this was a one-time response and there was no permanent solution to the migrant wave.
Neither Austria nor Germany were open for all refugees seeking a way out, said the official. And that is the problem. The European Union, which operates by consensus among its 28 member states, is debating what to do, but there remains considerable resistance among central European states like Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Britain, to mandatory quotas of migrants as France and Germany have proposed, reported The New York Times.
Europe cannot agree on how to deal with a migration crisis that is threatening to overwhelm it. It has been described by some as the worst humanitarian crisis to hit Europe since World War 2.
About 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011. Of those, about 6 million are internally displaced in Syria, while an estimated 1.8 million are living in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon and 630 000 in Jordan.
Turkey has been praised for accepting such a large number of refugees, but the Syrians find themselves in limbo, reported The Telegraph.
They are denied formal refugee status and are categorised as “guests”, granting them temporary refuge.
Jobs are in short supply and Arabic- and Kurdish-speaking Syrians struggle with the Turkish language.
Many Syrians who have languished in refugee centres in Turkey for years say they see little or no prospect of peace returning to their country.
– Report compiled from The Telegraph, BBC and The New York Times
CHILD’S PLAY A boy plays at a rail station in Munich, Germany, yesterday
GRIEVING family Abdullah Kurdi mourns at the funeral of his