Voy­age of dan­ger

Des­per­ate mi­grants push ahead as they make the per­ilous jour­ney into Europe

CityPress - - News -

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

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