From Syria to Sweden: Eiad´s perilous voyage across the Mediterranean
Eiad’s wife did not want him to embark on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to safety in Europe, but Eiad believed it was their only option. They had tried to build a new life in Egypt, but after two years in the country, Eiad realized he would not be able to provide a good future for his young children there. “Life wasn’t very good in Egypt”, he explains. In spite of his wife’s protests, Eiad decided to risk his life in a rickety boat sailing from Egypt to Italy. His wife and children returned to Damascus. “I was more worried about the kids”, he says. “I thought that if my life will finish, it will finish anyway – in Egypt, in the sea, wherever.”
After one and a half months of searching, he made contact with a human smuggler. The price for getting to Europe: 2,500 dollars. “We went in a group so it would be cheaper. The safest way to travel to Europe is through Turkey but it’s much more expensive. Sometimes, it can cost more than 8000 dollars per person” says Eiad. He describes the five-day boat journey to Italy with more than 300 others as “hell”- people were thrown into the boat and the smugglers did not care if they fell into the water. “If they had animals with them, they would take better care of them because they’re worth more to them”, says Eiad. Still, there was a sense of solidarity between passengers. Eiad recalls how two people almost fell off the boat in their sleep but were caught by the other passengers.
After reaching the shores of Italy, Eiad headed towards Northern Europe and arrived in Sweden on 12 October 2014. Coming here was a great relief, but life as a refugee has its daily struggles. “I miss my family” says Eiad, explaining how he had to adjust to his new life at the asylum-seeker reception centre in Farsta, Stockholm. “Starting over is not easy and leaving your country without your family… it’s hard. A lot of people who came here didn’t want to leave their lives behind in Syria. But it is impossible to give them back the same life here…They are forced to change” he says sadly.
For 36-year-old Eiad, a former shop and restaurant owner, living a slower paced life at the reception centre is a challenge. He often plays cards with some of the other people at the centre to make time pass faster and sometimes he also plays football. “But I have a problem with my back so I can’t do too much sport.” He believes life moves slower in Sweden. “In Syria, we do everything fast. A lot of Arabs find this very frustrating because we are always in a hurry” says Eiad with a laugh,
“We want things to happen faster, and we want to be reunited with our families sooner.”
Eiad says he has not started his life in Sweden yet, not without his family. “Your mind is not clear, it’s with your family, your kids, and you’re waiting to see them.” But despite the continuing concerns for his family, Eiad is hopeful for the future. “I want to finish my studies or work and study at the same time. I don’t like to sit still.” He hopes to use the skills he acquired as a restaurant owner in Syria to start a small restaurant in Sweden, serving Syrian food.
Eiad’s application for asylum has just been approved and he is waiting to be reunited with his wife and two sons, who are still in Syria. “My children are very excited about coming to Sweden”, says Eiad with a big smile. “My wife is worried because she doesn’t know anyone here and it’s strange for her. But I think she’s going to like it. She is an English teacher” he says proudly.
Page 1 of 9
UNHCR and UNICEF jointly raise awareness in Norway about refugee children01.12.2020
With a graffiti-painted container in the middle of Oslo for the month of December, UNHCR and UNICEF spotlight the plight of millions of displaced children.
Iceland provides vital support to the urgent displacement crisis in the Sahel27.11.2020
Moumouni Abdoulaye is amongst the 2.7 million people in Africa’s Sahel region forced to flee from home in search for safety. A new contribution from Iceland enables UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to protect refugees like him and his family.
UN General Assembly extends mandate for High Commissioner Grandi24.11.2020
The United Nations General Assembly today renewed the mandate of Filippo Grandi as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for a further two-and-a-half-year-period.
New report points to continuous gaps in protection of stateless persons in Norway19.11.2020
Today, a UNHCR-commissioned report analyzing the legal practice on statelessness in Norway is launched. Commending Norway’s commitment to end statelessness, UNHCR reiterates its concrete recommendations to the country in this area.
Stories from the Field: “This region has a long history of helping displaced people”13.11.2020
An interview with our Norwegian colleague Halfdan (Hago) Kjetland in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
UNHCR urges states to end limbo for stateless people by 202411.11.2020
COVID-19 is worsening the plight of millions of stateless people worldwide, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned today. Marking the sixth anniversary of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign, aimed at ending statelessness by 2024, Grandi called on world leaders to include and protect stateless populations and make bold and swift […]
UNHCR issues report on statelessness in Denmark10.11.2020
UNHCR’s mapping of statelessness in Denmark, prepared in collaboration with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and Danish authorities, is published today.
Stories from the Field: “My daily work is about finding practical ways for people to live independent lives in safety and dignity”29.10.2020
An interview with our Swedish colleague Karolina Lindholm Billing in Beirut, Lebanon.
Colombian child rights defender wins UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award01.10.2020
This year’s laureate of the Nansen Refugee Award – a humanitarian prize given annually by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency – is an educator who has spent more than 20 years rescuing sexually exploited and trafficked children, many of them refugees. Mayerlín Vergara Pérez, Maye, has dedicated her life to […]
UN agencies hail milestone as over 1000 asylum seekers relocated from Greece so far this year through EU initiative30.09.2020
Joint IOM/UNHCR/UNICEF Press Release