The road to Europe is paved with dead refugees

Tariq (vasakult esimene) ja Hassan (paremalt esimene), nagu ka nende sõbrad, on sündinud Palestiinas kuid üles kasvanud Süürias. Sõda kodumaal sundis neid ette võtma ohtliku teekonda üle Vahemere ning lõpuks jõudsid nad välja Malmösse.

PHOTO: Jaanus Lensment

Dwelling in the Southern Swedish city of Malmö, Hassan – hailing from Syria – is satisfied indeed: no need to worry about safety like back home. The way to Scandinavia wasn’t easy, though...

To Sweden, Hassan arrived via Turkey and Bulgaria. For a while, he lived and worked in the latter, but left due to hostility related to his darker skin. The job had been working as a mechanic.

As he landed in Bulgaria, coming in from Turkey, the man met a grisly sight. «Coming out of the boat, the first thing I saw was a human hand in the sand. Obviously, a boat had sunk with refugees, and the body washed to the shore. Glancing around on the beach, I saw several bodies more,» he described.

Along with four of his friends, Hassan told Postimees his story from Syria to Sweden. All five are born in Palestine, but raised in Syria. The reason they left was a desire to dwell in a land where they’d not need to fear for their lives the whole time.

No safe spot

«People are fleeing Syria, as it’s dangerous there. One day a bomb falls on one side of the house, the next day to the other side of it, and on the third it may drop in your own house,» related Hassan, pointing to a friend of his who fled Syria a year ago. «He had a bomb fall into his house, and he got wounded in both legs with splinters.»

«I love Sweden. It is a wonderful land, but the main thing is I do not have to fear the bombs dropping down on me,» he added.

According to Hassan, he has invited his family members over to Sweden but they have not managed to take their journey as yet. Talking about the family, the man nearly broke down having not heard of them for quite a while and, considering the situation in Syria, one must be prepared for the worst.

«A month ago, I made myself a Facebook account. Earlier, I have many times deleted it in anger, having read the reports on acquaintances killed in Syria. Now, daily I check the Facebook with fear, if there are reports on relatives,» he described. «For four months I have heard nothing about them. There are electricity problems in Syria and therefore they may be lacking the means to contact the outside world. Meanwhile, I know they may already be dead. Therefore, daily I check the Facebook account with fear.»

As for the friends of Hassan, these are the modern boat people i.e. ones to flee across the Mediterranean to Italy, and from there on to Sweden. Tariq, a few years younger that Hassan, says he started his journey from Syria, moving along to Turkey, then by boat to Greece and later into Italy. From there, the man journeyed onward thru Central Europe to Denmark, and ended up in Malmö, Sweden.

Connections count

Asked if they had any problems with Italian border guards, the men said the Italians took it easy. «As I arrived in Italy, I was arrested for five days. After that, they said go where you want,» said the man who fled Syria a year ago. «Then I got myself a car and a driver who brought me to Sweden. For that, I paid him a thousand euros.»

Fleeing Syria is not cheap. According to what the men said, it costs one €3,000 to €4,000 to make it from Syria to Sweden – in case one knows the right people. If not, one can find a boat someplace, but the costs will be higher.

With life in Sweden, the men are very satisfied. The main reason they cite is the humane way Swedes relate to Syrian refugees, and the high wage level. «In Bulgaria, I often ran into people who said why did you come here to steal our money and go back where you came from. Whose money am I stealing? My salary was €350 a month and afterwards they did not even pay that,» said Hassan, all emotional.

«I am not an animal. I’m a human and I want to be treated as one,» Hassan added.