Three days of journey by sea, 72 hours under the sun, crowded in a boat which is too small to contain all the people it has on board. Yet, those you can see are only a tiny part; there are more people crammed in the hold. These are the conditions in which many refugees arrive, when the barge does not wreck, on the southern coasts of Europe. Those boats contain thousands of stories, many sorrows, and endless fears.
Waled is an 18-year-old young man who fled from Syria because of war. His home burned down after it was hit by a bomb, but fortunately he and his family were able to survive. Another story is that of his uncle Ghazwan who was in a car together with his wife and son when a missile hit them. He fainted due to serious injuries, whereas the rest of the family died.
He woke up in a field hospital with a completely different voice: a splinter had poked his throat and damaged the vocal cords. It is a miracle he is still alive, now his hope is to move to Germany, find a job and “manage to smile again as he once did”. But his biggest dream is the end of the war in Syria. He wants to return to his country and rebuild it. A slap in the face of all those people who think that migrants as parasites who want to “eat” on Europe’s shoulders.
Waled and all of his family were able to flee to Libya, but over time, they realized it was not a safe place to live neither. Terrorist cells affiliated to ISIS periodically attack schools: their goal is to recruit young people for the “army”. After the latter undergo weeks of “treatments” with cocaine to bend their will, ISIS forces them to a exhausting trainings because they have to be ready for the fight. Girls are raped or enslaved and are destined to become wives to jihadists.
One of Waled’s companions was kidnapped and they never heard of him ever since. People are not safe even at home. Entire neighbourhoods were devastated with a particular technique: militants dig underground tunnels and place bombs there so as to make them explode one after another and make entire areas of a city disappear at once. Sometimes people manage to get a tip: to avoid dying the residents of the neighbourhoods organize and attempt to escape together at night. A true exodus to be able to survive.
If you manage to flee from jihadists and their bombs, the “only” step left is to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Real mafia organizations handle the so-called journeys of hope. The price of the ticket varies from person to person: children travel for free, whereas for adults the cost varies depending on their weight and on their place in the boat.
Waled’s parents sold everything they had to pay for the journey. His cousin was the last one to get in the barge: if there had not been enough space, someone would have had to be left on the shore and he did not want this to happen to one of his daughters.
Waled’s story is one of the thousands of stories the European Union must deal with these months, as it faces the most serious refugee crisis after WWII. There are at least 500 thousand people who fled from the Middle East and Africa to seek asylum in Europe; at least 350 thousand of them may be considered refugees and enjoy the right of asylum in the EU.
Yet, reception got stuck at good intentions. Whereas the reality of the situation is that there are States that prefer to raise walls, so as to prevent refugees from crossing their borders. But as Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU Commission, reiterated during the last plenary session in Strasbourg, raising walls will not change anything, migrants will always find a way to get on the other side. Barriers serve only to divide, and this is not what Europe is about.