Terrified that he would be recruited into the army, Numeir fled his home in Syria when he was just 15 years old.
Numeir hugs his seven-year-old sister Anmar in Lensahn, Germany.
© © UNHCR/Chris Melzer
Terrified that he would be recruited into the army, he fled his home in Syria when he was just 15 years old. Saying farewell to his family – including his four-year-old sister Anmar who was crying and begging him not to go – left him feeling more alone than ever.
“I had to go,” says Numeir. “Saying goodbye was terrible. Anmar begged me not to go, saying ‘big brother, don’t go’. But I had no choice.”
Numeir travelled through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, before finally reaching an uncle in Germany. By the time he arrived, in 2015, he was 16 and thousands of miles from his family.
Germany: From bombs to birdsong, a 3-year journey to reunite a Syrian family (William Davies, producer-camera / Bela Szandelszky, editing)
As a child, Numeir was taken into custody by the authorities and eventually ended up in a hostel in Lensahn, a small town located in the northern most tip of Germany. It has less than 5,000 inhabitants and is just a few minutes by car from the Baltic Sea.
“It’s so beautiful here,” says Numeir. “So green, so quiet, so peaceful.”
For three years he had just one wish: “I want to share the beauty here with the people who are most important to me in the whole world – my family.”
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, helped Numeir with the process of family reunification. His father Ismain, mother Fada and three siblings had fled to Turkey, then to Greece, before finally hearing that their family reunification application had been approved.
One Thursday in May, the five prepared to land at Hamburg’s Fuhlsbüttel Airport.
Many people in the arrivals hall were waiting for that flight. But nobody seemed as excited as Numeir. Had the plane landed safely? Would everything work out on arrival? Suddenly his family were there and Numeir could embrace his mother once more.
Fada says it was just like the first time she held her first-born in her arms 18 years ago. “It was exactly like that, like the first time,” she says, happily.
When the family arrived in Lensahn and stepped out of the car, they were astounded. Of course they had seen the photos, but now they could smell the trees, feel the grass and touch the brick wall of an old farmhouse they were all going to live in. “It’s beautiful here,” said Ismain.
Numeir lifted his little sister up and showed her the lake behind the house. “It’s so green,” Anmar exclaimed. “And above all, Numeir is here!”
“It is great to see such a happy family,” says Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR’s Representative in Germany. “And this is why family unification is so important. For years, Numeir was sick with worry about his beloved ones. Now the whole family can rebuild their lives here in Germany and their fears have disappeared.”
Numeir and his family are grateful for the chance to live in peace.
“We have seen gas attacks, we’ve seen bombs,” says Ismain. “For a father, this means he can never be sure if his wife and children are still alive when coming home in the evening. Here, when I see the children running around in the garden laughing, I know they’re safe.”
“I would like to thank the German people who gave me the opportunity to see my son again,” he continues. “They hosted him, they held him in their arms and they reunited us together.”