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Global Health Thought Leader Uncategorized

Those Left Behind

Many Syrian refugees have dubbed the journey to Europe as the ‘Death Road’ because of its perilous nature, especially at sea. Despite this, thousands continue to make the trip with more than 3,500 people this year already having lost their lives at sea.

Below is the story of 33- year-old Hanan as told to CARE staffer Lucy Beck. Hanan’s husband left for Germany to seek a better future for his family. She stayed in Jordan to look after her family of seven, including her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and five children.

Hanan with two of her children. Credit: Lucy Beck/CARE

Hanan with two of her children. Credit: Lucy Beck/CARE

My husband left Jordan on June 16 and arrived in Germany in July. He had been working in Jordan without permission and got caught twice. We were worried we would get sent back to Syria. The last time he was caught I spent the whole day crying to the police and begging them not to send us back. We have to pay the rent on our apartment which is 200 JOD (around $US280) per month and if he can’t work, then we can’t pay. If we don’t pay, then we have to leave.

In spite of the risks, my husband traveled to Europe because of better living conditions there, schools for the children —  and because of the difficult situation for us living in Jordan. It’s all about our children; they are the main reason. He went from Jordan to Turkey to Greece and then up through Europe. He took loans from friends (a total of $2,000) to pay his passage from Turkey.

The last time I spoke to him he told me he’s near Frankfurt in a camp. He says the country is good. The journey was very hard, though, and he went with only the clothes on his back. We spent a lot of time without contact – sometimes I went four days without hearing from him. He told me he used all his food and water early on and was eating from the trees and forests and drinking from rivers along the way. The worst part, though, was the boat trip, which took 10 hours. At the end of journey the water was coming up over the sides of the boat and they nearly capsized.

It’s so hard with him gone. Now I have to take care of the whole family alone. I have many new responsibilities: taking the children to and from school and caring for my elderly mother-in-law. I have to take out loans from friends and neighbors to pay the rent. I am waiting for my husband to find work so he can start sending us money. We were expecting it would take one year before he would be able to start providing for his family again and then we could join him in Germany, but already things are taking longer than we thought so I will have to keep borrowing and maybe look for work myself.

I miss him so much, too much, and so do the children. This is the first time we have been separated for this long in 11 years of marriage. Before this, the longest period we spent apart was one month when he went on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. I miss everything about him, but the hardest thing is seeing how much the children miss him. They are always asking when they will see him, and I don’t know what to tell them.

I know it won’t be easy in Germany, but it is still better than here. My husband and I were teachers in Syria, so we can always learn the language and it will be worth it for the children. If my husband doesn’t get us over to him in a year, I will try to take out a big loan and join him there with our children. I am scared to death by the journey, but I know that after a while no one will give me any more loans and I won’t be able to survive.

To help lift some of her financial burdens, Hanan received CARE’s emergency cash assistance of US$183 and is now being considered for CARE’s winter assistance of approximately US$560.


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