Wednesday

24th May 2017

Opinion

Letter to EU: 'If you don't want refugees, stop the war'

  • People waiting to be evacuated from eastern Aleppo, on 15 December. (Photo: Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail)

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Wassim Omar. My family and I, and many other refugees, arrived on Chios island (Greece) on 20 March 2016. After we faced death many times in the Aegean Sea in the night, we arrived in the early morning at Chios and we thanked God that all of us were saved and we were very happy because we reached the first EU country.

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We arrived to freedom and democracy countries, but unfortunately the policemen told us that we arrived on the first day of an EU-Turkey deal, so we couldn't leave the island and we had to stay here. After they got our fingerprints we asked the UN and all organisations how long we were going to stay here.

They said they don’t know. During our stay in Vial camp from 20 to 30 March, there were many fights between peopler and with police, not because refugees were bad but because they felt they were in prison. They couldn't even get a breath.

We moved to Souda camp and it was really very "souda". Souda in Arabic means “black”. So from that day our life got more black and black. During our stay there, we protested many times and some friends and I held a hunger strike for 21 days in May. Many media came and we spoke and told them our claims which were our right to move to Athens and to take part in the [EU] relocation programme but in vain.

In fact, it took eight months until we got our papers to move to Athens. All of that happened to us just because our mistake was to come after 20 March. Finally, we got our papers to move to Athens on 14 October. I asked the UN to help me to find a place to stay in Athens. They said: "Athens is full. Go and manage yourself." So my family stayed sometimes in hotels and sometimes in homes of Greek friends.

My message to the EU commission and Council with all my respect:

We fled from countries which have wars to find a safe country and better education for our children. In Syria a person dies one time but, because of the [EU-Turkey} deal, we die hundreds of times a day. Because of the deal you asked people to seek asylum here in Greece or to go back to Turkey. That means it is not our choice. It is your choice. It is not a personal choice. It is a choice imposed on us.

One. It is a shame on all the world because they [EU states[ close their borders in front of refugees. If you don't want more refugees you should work to stop the war in Syria and other countries. Because whenever there is war, there are refugees.

Two. History will write what everyone did. Who killed people and who worked hard to keep people alive.

Three. EU countries, as all the world knows, talk about human rights and their concern for victims of war, so I hope these words are true, not just for the media.

Four. Political leaders should recognise that these are people, they are human, they have a family, they have future and dreams and they deserve to have chance to get it and live it. They aren't numbers.

Five. In the past, Syria welcomed and showed hospitality to people and we didn't call them refugees. We opened our houses, not just our border, to everyone who needed help. History witnessed that. Today all the world has closed its borders and its humanity in our face.

I hope all the world lives in love and peace one day.

Thanks very much,

Wassim Omar.

Wassim Omar is a 34-year old Syrian. He was an English teacher before fleeing the war with his wife and two young children

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