Bitter is the Syrian Refugee fate in Reyhanli

20th of June is the International Refugee Day. I'm taking a flight from the airport Ataturk in Istanbul to Antakiya, an ancient historical city, now recognized by the huge number of Syrian refugees. After 3 years  of intensive work with refugees in my country, again, I am on an humanitarian mission abroad, again, with the same people, but now in a different country and under different circumstances. Even our target is different. Within the campaign „Macedonia with Love for Aleppo“ together with the First Children's Embassy in the World „Megjashi“ we did fundraising with which we will make Syrian refugee orphans happy. I feel relished, but at the same time I feel sad, imagining the conditions in which all those people live.

I'm going through the last reports. Today, in the Transit Center Tabanovce our team prepares iftar (dinner). I'd been informed that seven people, irregular migrants, are outside the entrance, they were denied entrance in the camp, so they're staying beside the fence waiting for someone to sympathyze with them and give them something across the fence. For God's sake, why would we need such a big refugee center when people sit outside and beg for a slice of bread as if they were dogs. And these are people with own rights, unfortunately not equal to us, but not underprivilged because what would our duty be if not fighting for their rights? After a consultations, our colleague Jasmina informed the Ombudsman, with whom we are closely cooperating in relation to the protection of refugee rights and they contacted the new Minister of Interior, who had decicded not to deny entrance to the irregular migrants in the refugee centers.

The second good news is that on the same day my dear friend and other Syrian refugees, who had been staying for 10 months in the refugee center in Gevgelija, now from Athens are travelling to Paris. Ibrahim and Ahmed, whom I've mentioned above, whithin the relocation process, now have a new refuge, and that is France. At last, they arrived legaly in a safe destination, where they will learn the language, work on integration, whilst I will have a reason to travel to the country that I haven't been yet. The others from the same group were selected by Sweeden and Estonia, while the rest is still waiting in Greece. Unfortunately, Mr. Nuri is still in Gevgelija, while his family reunification is being prolonged for a year and a half, for uneccessary administrative reaons of Germany and Macedonia.

In Antakiya we were welcomed by Jasin, representative of the humanitarian organization IHH, who in the next three days will be our host and lead us to the all planned activities. In the same night we travelled for Reyhanli, a town by the border with Syria. The town has 90 000 Turkish citizens and 120 000 refugees. There we took part in the huge iftar gathering in the center for orphan Syrian refugee children. That is one of the most modern centers in the world. It is build in a 10 hectar area, with 55 two-floor villas which house children. In each of them with 16 children and two guardians, two stadiums for soccer and basketball, two closed fields for sport activities, a number of parks and fountain with playgrounds, cultural centers, kindergarden, primary and secondary school, clinic, institution for psycho-social control, while the security in the entrance is at high level. That is a new center, sponsored by the Qatar foundation Raf and the Turkish foundation IHH. Hamza Cakir, the director of the center showed us the space and the way they work with the children. Out of so many Syrian refugee children, I think these are the happiest ones. What surpirsed us in a positive way, apart from the impressive conditions, was the rules of work, different from those in Macedonia - where when an orphan turns 18 years old gets expelled from the center to the streets, while here their home is this until they become ready, i.e., they graduate from university and find a job.

The next day we met 150 children from the Orphanage. We had prepared something for them to cheer them up. The Turkish Foundation IHH had asked Waikiki to open earlier so that from 9 to 11 am those children could come with their guardians in order to choose clothes for themselves as a present for Eid. Instead of waiting in line to get a present, it looked as if they had come shopping to make their wishes come true. Just as when I go shopping for Eid clothes for my children. That cheerful clamor of children's voices is now echoing in my ears, a competition for getting prettier clothes, a lake full of smiles and joyful eyes that brought tears to our eyes. I think I had never gone shopping for such a long time but I have to say that I did enjoy this one.

After shopping, we went on to visit another center for refugee orphans, by coincidence named Jasmin. There were over 60 orphans in the center. They welcomed us singing and offering us gillyflowers, and in return we offered them big packages with sweets. Then, after having played with the children and talked to the manager of the center, we proceeded with the following activities.

At my initiative, we went to visit a dozen refugee families who are not being taken care of in the refugee camps. Since it is a large number of refugees - larger than the number of residents and Reyhanli, a large number of them live under substandard conditions. We visited mothers with children whose fathers have suffered in the war in Syria. Our host, Jasin, a great-hearted man, found donors who paid the rent for a part of these families, thus, a great weight is off their shoulders. We visited a single mother with three small children. Humanitarian organizations provide them food, and the apartment is empty, with one bed and some cane mats.

Another mother was with three daughters and a son, the youngest. Last week, Jasin found a sponsor to pay him for circumcision, so we gave him presents. We gifted the couple as well, as this is our way of celebrating. We also met a mother from Aleppo, with four children, of which the youngest is a one-month-old baby. When still pregnant, the Syrian army regime arrested her husband, and she escaped to Turkey with her children. 20 days after the birth of the baby, she received the news of her husband being moved to prison after months of torture. She was destroyed, and the small children were not aware of their fate. Jasin immediately turned to search for a better accommodation and sponsors, while we were playing with the children and gifted them with presents. Also, we granted all these families food from the zakat al-fitr from our citizens. Such is the life fate of thousands in Turkey, but also in other countries.

What hurt us the most is the family that Jasin discovered a week ago. In a courtyard where several refugee families are housed, a five-member family of Ahmed el-Tagi lives in a small and tight room. He was wounded in his home near Damascus by a tank grenade that left his left body injured. His hand is motionless, and on his legs he still has metal rods. The doctors in Antakya have said that they did not have the technical capabilities to restore his arm and leg in function, but that it was possible in other major medical centers. So young and gentle, and yet motionless. He lies on the only bed there is, while his children sleep on a tiled floor. I can imagine how he feels that he cannot afford his family at least the minimum living conditions. The other room is their toilet and kitchen. These are the lowest substandard living conditions. Me and my colleague Dragi Zmijanac from "Megjashi", got really worried about their condition. We discussed a lot and agreed that this man needs a serious medical care and recovery treatment in Europe, and the children need a beautiful home.

On the contrary, a man who is not in a position to provide himself and his family with the minimum means of living will in the future have to use their children's efforts to survive the pitiful refugee situation. Our packages, the modest financial help, and nice words of encouragement and hope are not enough to permanently resolve the problems of these families. This is the responsibility of the international community, because they are here and can do a lot. It is easy to close the Balkan refugee route and the influx of refugees into the European Union, but it is difficult and a huge responsability to take care of them in Hot Spot countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Greece. Such cases need to be relocated in the European Union, to receive medical treatment and rehabilitation, and children to be rescued from possible exploitation of the child labor force. Those children deserve carefree childhood, and those who can, must take urgent measures to address such a serious problem of vulnerable categories of refugees.

After these shocking scenes from the Reyhanlija street, we went to the large logistic center of IHH, where we were welcomed by the children whom we had iftar with, talked with and listened to their stories and songs, and then distributed the Eid packages. All those smiles and joyous looks for a moment eased our previous sad and disappointing impressions and emotions.

With this, we have completed our activities in Turkey, which are the beginning of our future lobbying activities to improve the living conditions of vulnerable categories of refugees. We are aware that our aid to the 360 children is just a drop in the sea of their enormous needs, but we hope others will follow this noble example, and that international institutions will not ignore our appeal to resolve Ahmed's case, and that this initiative was the beginning of a solution to the problem of a large number of injured victims of war.

source: aljazeera