Yasir and his sons

A few days ago, Facebook Memories reminded me on an occurrence from the start of the refugee crisis.

In the beginning of May 2015, I received an unusual call in the middle of the night. As we put Dalija down to sleep, the phone rang. I rushed to turn it off. As I checked the screen, I saw it was Lence Zdravkin calling. She is a person with a big heart that has spent all winter on the balcony of her house right next to the railroad in Veles, waiting for a group of refugees to pass, ready to supply them with food that we used to bring her every weekend. Apart from our daily mobile teams, her house was a humanitarian stationary point. It must be an emergency, since she’s calling this late.

“Jasmin, I am currently at Veles’ hospital. There’s a concerned father with two children of five and eight years old, a son and a daughter. I have clothes for him, but not for the children.”

I instantly informed my wife Mersiha. She prepared the clothes, grabbed two teddy bears and my jacket. We left Dalija in the care of my mother.  

Soon we arrived in Veles and searched for the road to the hospital. Lence’s son was waiting for us, and immediately sent us to there. On the hospital bed, a 40-year-old men was lying, with infusion, and with visible fatigue and concern on his face, and right next to him, two pair of worried eyes, with unkempt hair and dirty winter clothes. 

Lence and Mersiha fed them and later went to wash them and change them into clean and warm clothes. I offered him food, but his eyes were searching for his kids. I told him there’s enough food and in order for him to invigorate it would be best if he tries to eat something and drink the blueberry juice.

I started chatting with him. He told me his name is Yasir, that those two are his children. He escaped Syria because of a barrel bomb thrown at his city by the regime and has destroyed his house. A heavy rucksack with themselves and mobile phones, that’s all they had. They escaped to Turkey, from there to Greece by boat, and then by foot from Thessaloniki to Macedonia, until Veles, where he lost his consciousness by the rail tracks. Some people found him by the rail track and contacted the police, and the police called the ambulance. They didn’t want to arrest or deport him back because of the children; they let us help him. The night shift doctor received him and released all the intensive care department just for him. He woke up in the hospital and happy that he’s seeing his children standing next to him.

The children left without a mother

Then, Mersiha and Lence arrived, with clean and dressed children and with smiles on their faces: both of them were boys, but the long hair of one of them made us think it was a girl. It is not important the color of the clothes, as long as they’re clean and warm. After the infusion, Yasir took a bath and changed into his new clothes now – Lence’s husband clothes. His face glinted, and the traces of worry on his face decreased. But did not disappear.

We prepared the kids for sleep in one of the beds, facing each other with the teddy bears on their hands. Let them at least sleep comfortable this night, I thought, looking at the older child as he was slowly swaying in the blanket. I was surprised and looked at Yasir while in a gesturing way asked him why his child was sleeping that way.

He straightened up and said: “He recalls his mother. That’s how she put him to sleep every night.”

“And where’s his mom?”, I asked, while sensing the answer, simultaneously regretting letting this question slip.

 “She died when the barrel bomb hit our house. The children were playing outside the house, while I was out filling water… I am left with the kids only.”

I was shocked.

Mersiha, Lence and Ance were asking me translate to them, but I could barely speak. We let them sleep, and in the morning they left the hospital by the end of the shift of the humane doctors.

Uncertain journey

Two days later I was informed about a man who got sick near Skopje, who was with two children and that he was transferred to the state hospital in Skopje. We immediately contacted the doctors who work there. They confirmed it was a refugee who is in intensive care because of impaired blood, that he’s receiving a transfusion and that they will examine him when he recovers slightly to see the cause of the weakening of the blood. A caring family was taking care of the children. Yet, we didn’t find out how and where we could visit them.

After a few days, when they had to examine him, we went for a visit to check how he’s doing and what are his results. Unfortunately, we found out they let him go, without any additional medical examinations. Apparently, they didn’t want to spend money on “migrants”.

We immediately began questing. We contacted the Asylum Center Visbegovo and the Center for Foreigners Gazi Baba, but he wasn’t there – neither him, nor his children. Looks like he left the city. He wouldn’t pick up his phone.

We were worried about him, but most of all for his kids. What if he gets ill while walking and there are no conscientious people to call an ambulance? What if someone abuses the children?

We reported the renowned doctors in Kumanovo – because that’s where the road leads them – to keep an eye on them and to inform us in any case. We also notified the activists in Preshevo.

A Call from Germany

Few days had passed, and we didn’t have any news about him, either positive or negative. Returning from an event, I told Mersiha that I will write an article about this case in the portal Al Jazeera Balkans, so the doctors and activists along the route would learn about this case, so that they know about the state of his health in case they accidentally meet him – and, of course, to look after him.

At that instant, I received a call on Viber. An unknown number. I answered and heard a familiar voice: “Selam aleykum, Mr. Jasmin! It’s me, Yasir.”

“Where are you Yasir? What hospital? In which camp? Where are the children? Are they alright?”, I asked inquisitively.

“I want to convey my gratitude and the gratitude of my children for all that you’ve done for us. We have arrived in Germany. We’re safe, and I am doing well. Please send hello to all the good people in Macedonia who helped us”, Yasir ended.

I felt relieved. I was so happy. I informed Mersiha and Lence. At the time, I didn’t write about this, because of the dominating fear of helping the “illegal migrants” respectively the refugees that were transiting the route.

They’re people, and not ghosts

Now, when as an organization, we have memorandums for cooperation with the state institutions in dealing with the refugees, whether they are documented or not, thereby facilitating our society to successfully cope with this phenomenon of the refugee crisis, while still facing with similar challenges.

With the closure of the "Balkan route" began the implementation of increased security checks towards refugees, as well as criminalization of the humanitarian organizations and human rights organizations across Europe, even in the region, which should not be allowed.

They’re people and not ghosts and have their rights. Those are sad human destinies, rather than numbers trying to hide under the carpet. Our duty is to be with them, protect them and behave humanely towards people.

source: aljazeera