anettes blog – on the road

refugees and migrants telling their stories


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Drug addicts, prostitutes and refugees

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The tall spindly man sits on the stairs in front of a door. He bends forward, stretches his arm in its full length, and turns the inner side up. Then he sticks an injection into a vein. His dirty hair hangs down his thin face.

Used drug injections with traces of old blood is seen everywhere in this area, lying in the gates, next to the staircases, in the streets. Addicts take quite openly their drugs and a smell of old urine and garbage hangs in the air. The heat makes the acrid smell excruciating.

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The battered bins are filled, and during the night starving rats and cats have eaten leftovers. Thin Greek plastic bags together with paper and foil trails is spread in the streets. Graffiti everywhere. Women in mini skirts are hanging around on the corners or trying – desperate for money to the next fix – to look attractive in front of one of the many brothels.

Not to mention all the men, the women and the children. From Iraq, from Syria and from Afghanistan. Men hanging out in front of the small shabby hotels, given to them by Greek authorities for accommodation. Women and children hiding in the rooms. Time passes by smoking and talking – just waiting. Five month have passed like this. Killing time. Soon one year has passed. Two years? Perhaps more? Who knows? Everybody hoping for the miracle that will never happen: Europe opening its borders.

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I am going to see a Syrian family. The family has problems. Everybody have in this huge city. The family live in one of the shabby hotels, but the GPS on my phone is not working, and I can not find the place. I pass one hotel after the other. The streets all look the same, old cars, cracked paving stones, and lots of houses in ruins. A board turned in with nails in front of the door prevents – sometimes – the huge number of homeless people to move in – and then graffiti everywhere.

I pass a Middle Eastern looking cafe. Men sitting at tables, drinking tea, playing cards or smoking the shisha. Looking up at the small balconies, I see laundry hanging, and I see women wearing the scarf.

A bit desperate I ask a group of Middle Eastern looking men. Hanging out in front of one of the hotels they know, where the hotel King Jason is. Or they know a hotel, where Syrian people are living, a man from Iraq tells me in excellent english. He offers to show me the way. Knowing that this area is no good for a woman on her own, I say thank you, and the whole group of men are joining us.

 

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The Iraqi man lived for five years in Great Britain and now he is on his way back, he tells me – not mentioning the fact that he and 60.000 other refugees are stuck in Greece.

-It is too dangerous in Iraq now, he says.

Now his pregnant wife and two children, five and nine years old spend all the time in the hotel room. The family arrived to Athen a month ago from the North of Greece, and Greece has big problems providing accommodation for all the stranded refugees.

-The children are bored, because they never go out. My wife gets depressed. It is too dangerous for women and children here in this area. You see the drug addicts? In the morning there are injection needles everywhere.

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We pass three homeless men sitting on a dirty mattress on the pavement. Behind them on the wall graffiti. One man has found a red chair lacking a leg and one in a worn out T shirt is fiddling with a barbecue. Nobody notice our passing, they just sit there, dirty, bad smelling and with these empty eyes, probably leaning of morphine.

So much human misery here that it is unbearable.

Down the road the hotel, where Syrian people are living. The usual group of men are hanging out here. Talking. Waiting. Just another refugee hotel.

I walk inside the small dark reception. A tall man with long oily hair stands behind the reception desk. On a red couch in a dark corner a woman dressed in tight trousers is sitting. The man behind the disk can not help me, he say and ask me to leave the reception and go back into the street. I thought I had found the right hotel, so my new friends have left.

But the hotel is not King Jason. Nearly giving up, I finally find the hotel. The sun is going down, and I have a quick talk with the family. I want to get out of here as soon as possible.

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Victoria square in March.

Back at my favorite cafe on Victoria Square I am told that I have just been in one of the most dangerous areas in Athen. There are places in this city where not even the Greek comes. While I sit quiet and safe, drinking my ice coffee, I wonder, why Europe do not have other places than an area for drug addicts and prostitutes to place women and children fleeing from war?

Greece is a poor and chaotic country and can not manage this huge problem on its own.

And the problem is getting worse – for the Greeks. Every day new boats filled with refugees arrive on the Greek islands. The camps there are overcrowded with people, there is a lack of everything and tension is rising. At the same time Germany is threatening to use the Dublin regulation and send back asyleum seekers to Greece.

Tonight at Victoria Square there are many afghan women. They sit in groups. Dressed colorful and with the scarf loosely round the hair, they sit chatting. In March Victoria Square was filled with refugees. The borders north had just closed, and men, women, children, all from Afghanistan slept at the place, carrying their luggage and their hopes for the border to reopen. It seems they still sit here. Carrying the same hopes.

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Victoria square tonight.


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Grækenland – Europas flygtningelejr

 

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Jeg støder tilfældigt ind i Sayed på Victoria Square i Athen. Sayed er fra Afghanistan, og han og hans familie er blandt de mere end 50.000 flygtninge, som er strandet i Grækenland. Han står der pludselig på en martsdag med høj sol og tilbyder mig venligt at oversætte fra farsi til engelsk.

Jeg er her, fordi jeg har hørt, at mere end tusind fortrinsvis afghanske flygtninge har slået sig ned på pladsen med de lilla blomstrende træer og de smarte cafeer, efter at Makedonien for en uges tid siden lukkede sin grænse mod Grækenland.

Et øjeblik bliver jeg overvældet. Overalt ligger unge mænd og sover, en snavset rygsæk eller taske gør det ud for hovedpude. Rundt omkring i grupper står mænd i alle aldre og snakker, børn leger, og på den forårskolde asfalt sidder kvinder med tomme trætte blikke, på afghansk vis med tørklædet løseligt slået over håret, og gerne en baby eller to i skødet.

 

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Victoria Square er blevet samlingspunkt for de, som er kommet til Europa hele den lange vej fra Afghanistan. Efter at Makedonien uden varsel lukkede sin grænse mod Grækenland, først for afghanere, og så senere også for syriske flygtninge, befinder alle disse mennesker sig i et vakuum i det i forvejen økonomisk trængte land. Menneskesmuglere forsøger her at kapre nye kunder til deres livsfarlige og tvivlsomme ruter op gennem Europa. Lige nu bor 10.000 i kulde, blæst og regn i en teltlejr oppe ved grænsen mellem Grækenland og Makedonien. Andre nåede ikke længere end til Athen. Grækerne har store problemer med at finde indkvartering til de mange mennesker, og på havnen i Piræus bor flere tusinde syriske og afghanske flygtninge og migranter i telte, store afgangshaller og et nedlagt warehouse. Alle håber bare på en ting: at grænsen mod nord igen åbner.

Jeg er ankommet fra Jordan i Mellemøsten et par dage forinden. Et af det krigshærgede Syriens såkaldte nærområder. I Jordan var der orden, ihvertfald på overfladen. På Victoria Square hersker der kaos. Mennesker, bagage og affald. Et par frivillige går rundt med en kost og en skraldesæk. Andre frivillige sidder med en gruppe børn på asfalten og tegner, mens en hvidhåret græker deler chips ud til nogen børn.

En kvinde haster forbi pladsen med sit tørklæde godt op foran næsen, og rundt om den rektangulære plads ses den ene fancy cafe efter den anden. Stolene er tomme. Grækerne kommer ikke, så længe pladsen er fyldt med flygtninge, og flygtningene har ingen penge. Ved nedgangen til metroen holder et stort blåt salatfad. Fem-seks politibetjente med skudsikre veste og pistolerne i siden står parat til at skride til handling ved den mindste tegn på uro.

 

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Jeg fornemmer tydeligt den sædvanlige sitren af nerver, hvor mange flygtninge er samlet og bare venter. Det var den samme anspændthed jeg mærkede på den græske ø Leros, da færgen til Athen på grund af strejke ikke sejlede i flere dage, og flere tusind mennesker strandede på den lille ø.

Sayed og jeg har sat os på en kold trappe. Han fortæller, at han og hans familie nu bor i en af de hastigt opførte flygtningelejre i byen. Foruden en på fem og en på halvandet har han et multihandicappet barn på to et halvt år, og er derfor kommet i kategorien særlig sårbar familie, og berettiget til en container i en flygtningelejr.

-En af de bedre, siger Sayed.

-I det mindste er jeg i sikkerhed her, siger han flere gange.

 

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Familien kom til Athen for en uge siden. Den flere uger lange rejse begyndte i Kabul. Hjulpet af menneskesmuglere har de krydset grænsen til Pakistan, senere grænsen til Iran, så Tyrkiets grænse. De har siddet i en overfyldt gummibåd på Aegaerhavet uden redningsveste for de bar løbet ud for penge, og en dag ankom de så med færgen til Athen:

-Vi blev meget skuffede, da vi fandt ud af, at grænsen er lukket, og vi ikke kan komme videre. Du kan se, der er tusinder af afghanere her, Grækenland er blevet et stort fængsel for flygtninge, siger han, og vi tier en stund, som for først at få den lange rejse og så skuffelsen til at bundfælde sig. Lidelserne, savnet af hjemlandet, og nu den her totalt håbløse situation.

-Jeg ved ikke, hvad jeg skal gøre, siger Sayed så endelig.

-Jeg er forvirret. Jeg vil videre, måske Tyskland eller Sverige. Der er ingen fremtid for mig i Grækenland. Jeg ønsker et godt liv for mine børn, og nu er vi fanget her. Da vi ankom med færgen til Athen, sagde politibetjenten:

-Hvad vil I her? Grækenland er et stort fængsel for flygtninge.

Det her er heller ikke godt for EU, det vil give problemer, du kan se, hvis nogen har penge udnytter menneskesmuglerne situationen. Giv mig en mikrofon, og jeg skal vise dig, hvor mange menneskesmuglere, der er her på pladsen. Det er en krise hele verden må tage sig af, mener han.

En lille grå varebil er kørt op og holder ind ved fortovskanten ti meter fra, hvor vi sidder. En mand stiger ud, går om til bagdøren og åbner. De nærmeste flygtninge har fulgt bilen med øjnene og nu styrter de derhen, skubber og masser. Det gælder om at komme først.

-Du kan se, hvordan folk slåes om maden. Det er mit folk, der slåes, Sayed får et mørkt udtryk i ansigtet.

 

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Hundreder af flygtninge har boet i halvanden måned på gulvet i en afgangshal på Piræus havn.

 

-Der er så mange børn her. Jeg ved ikke, hvordan jeg skal beskrive alt det her for dig. Du kan se det. Mange har mistet deres familie, deres venner, og de er her for at lede efter dem. Alt er forfærdeligt. Men vi er forhåbningsfulde. Det er vi nød til at være. Vi har ikke noget alternativ. Vi er fanget her, siger Sayed lavmælt.

Han forlod Afghanistan, fordi hans liv var i fare. Han havde et godt liv i Afghanistan, fortæller han. Han ønskede ikke at forlade sit land, sin familie og alle vennerne. Hans kone, Nahid arbejdede på en skole og selv havde han job i en bank. Samtidig var han skuespiller og spillede hovedrollen i en TV serie om kvindefrigørelse.

-I hver en krog af Afghanistan ved de, hvem jeg er, fortæller han.

En sen aften lige uden for hans hus overfaldt ukendte gerningsmænd ham. Han hørte, de råbte: Der er Arian. Hans navn i TV serien. De brugte knojern og slog ham bevidstløs. Han lå i koma i et døgn og overlevede med nød og næppe.

-Arrene her er efter det overfald, siger han og peger på nogen grimme ar i ansigtet.

-Før de slog mig bevidstløs, sagde de, at hvis jeg igen viste mig på TV, ville de dræbe de mig og mine børn og min familie. Efter det var det ikke en mulighed at blive en Afghanistan. Jeg blev ved med at modtage advarsler. Derfor er jeg nu her.

I stedet for huset i Kabul bor Sayed og hans familie nu i en overfyldt flygtningelejr med plads til 500 mennesker.

-Der er alt for mange flygtninge her i landet, mange tusinder, og der kommer flere hver dag. Vores lejr er god. Vi får god mad, og der er engelsk undervisning, folk fra UHNCR kommer og ser, hvad der sker, og giver råd til folk.

-Men hvad med at komme videre? Hvad med at bruge en af de mange menneskesmuglere, spørger jeg.

-Jeg har hørt om ruten fra Albanien til Italien, men jeg har også hørt, at det er meget farligt. At de spærrer folk inde i store skibe, og man kan ikke ånde der. Det vil jeg ikke. Jeg vil ikke dø. Derfor er jeg her nu. Jeg venter sammen med andre afghanere på, at grænsen skal åbne, siger han med håb i stemmen.

-Hvad skal jeg ellers gøre? Jeg ved det ikke. Jeg er bare forvirret. Grækenland har sine egne problemer, der er en høj arbejdsløshed. Så hvad skal vi her? Vi kender ikke sproget. Hvad vil der ske med alle disse mennesker? Jeg ved det ikke, jeg ved det virkelig ikke, jeg er bare forvirret, gentager han.

– Min kone kikker bare på mig. Hvad skal hun sige? Vi har tre børn, min handicappede søn har vi båret hele vejen fra Afghanistan. Han holdt armene om min hals, stemmen knækker lidt ved tanken om sønnen, den rædselsfulde rejse, og hvordan han på et tidspunkt troede, at de ville miste ham.

Vi tier igen. Så mærker jeg kulden fra stentrappen, der sniger sig ind i kroppen. Mange omkring mig har boet her i flere dage. De heldige har et gråt UHNCR tæppe, de kan vikle sig ind i om natten. Andre må ligge på den bare asfalt.

Sayed er på Victoria Square for at møde en englænder, og jeg trænger til en kop kaffe. Vi bliver venner på Facebook, og jeg lover at komme og se lejren.

 

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Afghanske flygtninge venter på at komme ind i Illionis lejren.

En dag tager jeg så metroen til Illionis lejren. Lejren ligger i et hvad der mest af alt ser ud som et forladt industrikvarter. Uden for de høje mure har en masse mennesker samlet sig. Mennesker, bagage og græske betjente med skudsikre veste og pistolen i bæltet. Jeg får mast mig frem til porten og spørger vagten, om jeg kan gå ind.

-Hvilken organisation er du fra, spørgsmålet kommer prompte, og jeg havde ikke lige ventet det. Så jeg siger som sandt er, at jeg er journalist og har en aftale med en i lejren.

-Vi vil ikke have journalister ind her, svarer vagten brutalt og kikker den anden vej. Sayed dukker op bag vagten. Han kommer ud, og vi bliver enige om, at jeg nok hellere skulle have sagt, at jeg var en god ven og ville se, hvordan familien havde det.

Den lovede kaffe i receptionsteltet bliver der ikke noget af. I stedet sætter jeg mig på en kantsten, mens Sayed henter sin familie. Hans kone, Nahid og Mutahar på seks og Muhtasham på halvandet. Ali på to et halvt sover til middag.

Flygtningene foran lejren er afghanere, som kom igår aftes, forklarer Sayed. De har måttet vente hele natten og nu det halve af dagen på at komme ind i Illionis lejren. Der har været slagsmål mellem en gruppe syrere og en gruppe afghanere i en af teltlejrene på havnen i Piræus, og politiet har skilt de to grupper ad, og en del er altså havnet her. De gentagne slagsmål handler ofte om jalousi. Syrerne har udsigt til ihvertfald midlertid opholdstilladelse et sted i Europa, mens de fleste afghanere regnes for migranter og derfor kan se frem til at blive sendt tilbage igen.
Vi snakker blandt andet om Sayeds bekymring for, om han kan blive ved at få gratis medicin af Læger uden Grænser til sin handicappede søn. Medicinen er nødvendig, ellers bliver drengen urolig og vil ikke sove.

På vej hjem i toget, mens jeg kikker ud på det nedslidte Athen, tænker jeg på, at det er et stort ansvar for en kun tredive år ung mand.

 

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Havneområdet i Piræus er fyldt med telte. Tusindvis af flygtninge har boet der i flere måneder.


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Faces of war

 

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I met Hasan, Nidal, Amani og baby Anisa in February in Jordan. They are refugee children from Syria, and they live with their mom and dad in a flat in a suburb to Amman. When they first came to Jordan four years ago fleeing the war in Syria, they stayed for two weeks in a big refugee camp in Jordan. The camp was far out in the desert, and it was terribly hot and a dangerous place to stay for children and women.

So one day a Jordanian friend came and said to the camp ward that he would take care of the family, and he promised to find them a place to live outside the camp.

That was how their dad got his job as a tailor in Muhammeds small shop in Amman. As a Syrian refugee their dad is not allowed to work, so all the time he is afraid of the police coming to catch him. Once they did, and he stayed in prison for two days.

Though their dad works twelve hours a day, he only earns very little, and the family is very, very poor, but still they are happy, he has a the job, so they do not have to stay in the camp.

Hasan goes to school every afternoon, otherwise he stays all day with his mom and Nidal and Amani and Anisa in the flat. Their parents can not afford buying any toys, and their mom would like to take them to the nearby playground, but it costs money to go there, so they do not go.

-Our lives have become very miserable, Hasan, Nidal, Amani and Anisas mom said to me, when I visited them in the flat.
-In Syria we had a good life and I hope we can go back soon.

 

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Faces of war

imageIn January in Amman in Jordan I met 12 year old Ibrahim in a rehabilitation center. Ibrahim was badly wounded by a barrel bomb one year ago in Syria. In the same air strike he lost his mum, one sister, three brothers and five cousins. His dad was elsewhere the day the bombs killed his family in the village, where they were hiding and now Ibrahim and his dad is together in Amman.

Pieces from the barrel bomb took seven centimeter of Ibrahims bone in his left leg. The week after I meet him in the rehabilitation center, he and his dad was going to Canada, where they got asylum. In Canada Ibrahim is going to have professional surgery for his leg.

But Ibrahim didn’t want to go to Canada and it has meant a lot of persuasion from his dad and the staff in the rehabilitation center to make him go. He misses Syria and all he wants is to go back to his war-torn country.

-One day I will become a journalist, and I will go back home and tell the world the truth about this war. I want to be the youngest journalist in Syria, he told me.


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Coming home – and flaschbacks

 

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5000 stranded people have lived for one and a half month in tents on port Pireaus in Athen.

The island of Bornholm is dressed like a bride, white and pure. Wild cherry trees and hawthorns flourishes, and in a while fields of yellow rape will be here. The wind is still sharp. Taking a walk in the forest I meet a company of Danish soldiers painted green in their faces, and with the machine guns raised for shooting. Ready to join new wars in distant countries.

The war was close this winter in Jordan with only 75 kilometers to the border of Syria. It became a habit for the Jordanians and the Syrian refugees living close to the border to wake up in the middle of the night hearing the sound of bombers. Inside Syria the machines spread death and destruction, and it happened they threw their cargo of barrel bombs in Jordan. When it happened The Kingdom would make a protest, but for what use? Against mighty countries like USA, Russia, France and Turkey?

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Syrian refugees living in tents in the desert of Jordan.

Staying three month in Amman in Jordan I happened to develop an attitude “thats life” about the war so close. Like a woman from Dubai told me: We are so used to war that I never gives it a thought.

A bad cold meant I had to cancel my plans staying with a Syrian refugee family close to the border of Syria. The cancellation might have been lucky, since it is no use seeking out war. On Facebook desperate Syrian friends outside – and inside Syria shared plenty of mutilated children with torn-off limbs and crushed dead people buried in dusty rubble. Their way to get the worlds attention to all the terribly things happening in their country.

One morning having my coffee and oat meal I see pictures of skinny people with ribcase protruding. Dying human beings from the besieged Syrian city of Madaya, 150 kilometer away from Amman. 40.000 people trapped for months, living of cats and boiled leaves. Old people and children dying of hunger, and desperate inhabitants trying to tell the world.

Even on peaceful Bornholm it is hard to escape horror: All the people I have come to know. All the children. And all the people I just met on my way.

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The port of Pireaus.

Two month on the Greek Island of Leros in autumn, when refugees were still sort of welcomed in Europe. In overcrowded robber boats they landed one by one on the military island of Farmakonisi. Here the refugees were welcomed by soldiers, who fired scaring shots in the air and gave them a packet of biscuits and a little water to survive, until the day they were picked up by the Greek military and brought to Leros.

Three cold month in Jordan close to the war and early spring in Athen with more than 50.000 refugees captured in a Europe closing its borders with barbed wire, teargas and riot police and military. A Europe which no longer care about humanity locking up starving children behind fences. Deporting people back to death, or just having closed eyes for the horrible conditions in the gigantic refugee camps, we have transformed Greece into.

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Three Syrian children and an old woman buried on the Greek island of Leros, far from home.

 

I met the three Syrian mothers at my hotel on Leros. Each of them had just lost a child in the sea, and the old man next to me in the couch, who lost his wife the same night in the same accident.

And the Syrian father repeating:

-I have been four months in prison in Turkey with my children – three month in a hole in the soil – without daylight. I never thought, we would make it out.

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Six year old Hasan in Turkish prison.

And I watched his anger to everything that was Turkish slowly eating him up. There was beautiful and calm eighteen year old Jasmin sitting there with her family for days on a blanket in the street in an overcrowded city of Leros. Back in Damascus the best in her class, and she told me, how the soldiers on Farmakonisi had beaten her beloved uncle. And the uncle, who asked me, if this was the attitude in Europe, and I did not know what to answer.

Or 20 year old Hamid from Syria, his only surviving family is an uncle in Denmark. All Hamid wishes of life is to go and stay with his uncle, but Denmark do not want him, so now he walks up and down the worn streets of Athen.

In many ways I feel great gratitude. I have a passport. I have a country, I can call my own. I am not forced to travel round the world chased and trying to flee war or a repressive Taliban. I do not meet barbed wire and closed borders, when I seek security for my children. Armed soldiers do not shout at me in a Greek refugee camp, and I am not locked up on a Greek island behind fences in order to be deported to a camp or a prison in Turkey or death in my country.

News from Greece. A video showing people screaming in panic. Another fire at a refugee camp in Athen. Security conditions are miserable in the hastily build camps, and I am thinking that one day someone might die.

I am reading that EU has a plan B, if the controversial deal with Turkey fails. We the European countries will transform Greece into a large refugee camp. They do not say it loud. At least not in that way.

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The family from Afghanistan staying for three months in one of the refugee camps in Athen.

-It is a big responsibility with three small kids, Arian writes on Messenger from one of the many refugee camps in Athen. The family is from Afghanistan, and they arrived just, when Europe closed its borders. He is only 30, an actor, and had to flee Afghanistan, when some men attacked him late one night and disfigured his face with brass knuckles. They did not like the TV series about womens liberation, where he was starring. Some neighbors found him and when he woke up 24 hours later in the hospital, the doctors told him, he was lucky, he was still alive.

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In Athen hundreds of stranded refugees living in Victoria Square.

-Being uncertain about the future is the worst, but at least I am safe here. I will rather live in Greece, than die in Afghanistan, he said, when we met in Athen.

The family with three small kids, one disabled arrived to Greece just as Macedonia closed its borders to the north for Afghan people. The country put up barbed wire and police shot at desperate people, who tried to get through.

-We do not want you, Macedonia said with EU approving. At first they said it to the Afghan people, then to everybody else.

-Why do you come, the Greek policeman asks, when Arian one morning in February arrives in Athen with his family on the ferry from Chios.

-We are just one big prison for refugees, the police officer told him.

Now the family is staying in a refugee camp in Athen. Three month in a container with air conditioning, and plenty of macaroni served by the Greek military.

-I am confused and sometimes my wife cries silently, Arian said.

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Shofiq is asking, why did you go so far.

Being back home I get a big hug from Shofiq. Half a year ago, I suddenly left him, and for a long time he denied talking to me on Skype. But then he got three small rabbits, and the connection was quickly restored.

-Why did you have to go so far away, he asks me and cuddles in my arms.

 

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Amman.

I am sitting on a cafe overlooking Amman’s rooftops, drinking strong arabic coffee with cardemom. It is late February and sitting in the spring sunshine is just beautiful. In front of me a couple of smart Jordanian women wearing white scarfs and smoking the water pipe, and from the nearby mosque the muezzin calls for another prayer. With my camera I take a picture of the barrels of water lined up on the rooftops – the desert country Jordan is always short of water – and I read on BBC online news that Saudi Arabia is going to send troops into Syria.

That war is one big mess. I wonder, if the Kingdom south of Jordan will send their tanks up through Jordan on the old Desert Highway?

I always make sure to be able to get out of the country quickly, if needed.

It is chilly on the island of Bornholm. Though it is soon May snow is falling. The first small beech trees are green and the forest floor is white with anemones. The wild garlic smell sharply and I pick as many as I can possibly eat.

There are the Syrian family in a suburb of Amman, who was so poor that the kids had no toys.

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A selfie. The actor from Afghanistan holding the Olympic flame in the refugee camp in Athen. A great moment.

I mix in a spread on Facebook. There are so many false rumors about refugees. Old videos spread as if it had happened yesterday. An unknown man writes me a private message on Messenger, that I am a traitor towards my country.

And all the time I know a young Syrian man, who walks around in the streets of Athen, sad and not knowing what to do and an Afghan father, who fears the future of his children.

A black shoe tucked among the rocks on the beach of Bornholm.

 

 

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Broken robber boats in the harbor of Kos.

There were so many lonesome shoes on the beach of the Island of Kos. So many broken robber boats. So many shipwrecks in the harbor. And left roars, so that the refugees were able to row the boat ashore, when the gasoline can got empty in the middle of the sea. I look at pictures of life jackets. I look at a picture of a white cape once belonged to a child, who survived crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece and I have a picture of a doll with blue hair forgotten on the pavement.

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And I remember the early morning, when two young men took a selfie on the beach of Kos, just arrived and happy that they had survived the dangerous trip across the Aegan Sea. In the night there was this screaming from the ocean. In a car and together with an English nurse I went up and down the coast for several hours in order to find out, what happened. We did not find out, but I am sure, the two young men were among the people, who arrived safely on the island of Kos. At least there were no reports of any accidents at sea that night.

On Bornholm the flowers of the wild cherry trees falls like large white snowflakes settling on a white blanket on the paved road. In a small village a woman is busy painting her mailbox red. A cold fog coming from the sea has settled over the island, and suddenly it blows up. I can hear crying in the wind from the South. During these times so many people cries.

I do too, when I hear Hamid is safe in Sweden.

 

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Back on beautiful Bornholm.

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OM AT KOMME HJEM – OG FLASCHBACKS

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5000 mennesker bor under primitive forhold på havnen i Piræus.

Gyldne blade faldt, da jeg forlod øen for et halvt år siden. Nu blomstrer de vilde kirsebærtræer og tjørnebusken hvidt og får øen til at ligne en uskyldig brud. Om lidt vil rapsmarkerne lyse gult. Forårsvinden er stadig skarp. De første, jeg møder på skovstien, er en flok kampklare soldater. Med camouflagemalede ansigter og maskinpistolerne hævet i skydehøjde venter de på at blive fløjet til nye krige i fjerne lande.

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Syriske flygtninge har slået sig ned i telte i den jordanske ørken.

Krigen var tæt på hele vinteren i Amman. Fem og halv fjers kilometer til grænsen mellem Jordan og Syrien, og det var nærmest en vane for de jordanere og syriske flygtninge, som boede tæt på at blive vækket om natten af præsident Assads bombemaskiner. Inde i Syrien spredte de død og ødelæggelse, og det skete, at de smed deres last af tøndebomber og andet skidt i Jordan. Så protesterede det lille kongedømme, men hvad hjalp det mod en dødsmaskine bestående af vældige lande som Rusland, USA, Tyrkiet, Frankrig og lille Danmark, og hvem, der ellers har syntes, de skulle blande sig i den syriske borgerkrig?

Det er en meget mærkelig fornemmelse at være så tæt på al den krig. På tre måneder nåede jeg at udvikle en vis immunitet, selv om det aldrig blev hverdagskost. Som en kvinde fra Dubai sagde til mig: Vi er så vant til det, at jeg aldrig tænker på. Jeg skulle have boet hos en syrisk flygtningefamilie tæt på grænsen, men blev snotforkølet, og opholdet blev aflyst, og det var måske meget godt. Jeg behøvede sådan set heller ikke at opsøge krigen. Jeg kunne bare nøjes med at åbne Facebook, hvor jeg fik smidt alle grusomhederne lige i hovedet af fortvivlede syriske venner uden for og – inde i – Syrien. Araberne deler flittigt billeder af lemlæstede børn med afrevne legemsdele og knuste døde mennesker begravet i støvede murbrokker. Deres måde at gøre opmærksom på grusomhederne.

En morgen er der billeder af radmagre mennesker med brystbenene stikkende frem. Døende fra den belejrede syriske by Madaya, kun 150 kilometer fra, hvor jeg sidder i sofaen og drikker min kaffe og spiser min musli. 40.000 indespærrede beboere har levet af katte og kogte blade i månedsvis, og børn og gamle dør nu af sult.

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5000 flygtninge bor lige nu under kummerlige på havnen i Piræus, Athen.

Hjemme på fredelige Bornholm er det svært at slippe gruen. Alle de mennesker, jeg har lært at kende, alle de børn og alle de mange jeg bare så på min vej.

To måneder på den græske ø Leros. Dengang flygtninge endnu var så nogenlunde velkomne i Europa. I overfyldte gummibåde landede de på den græske militærø Farmakonisi, hvor de blev modtaget af øens soldater, som affyrede skræmmeskud og gav dem en pakke kiks og lidt vand at leve af, indtil de en dag blev hentet af det græske militær og sejlet til Leros.

Tre kolde vintermåneder i Jordan med krigen tæt på, og to måneder i Athen, hvor mere end 50.000 flygtninge, heraf 22.000 børn i dette øjeblik er fanget i et Europa, der har lukket sine grænser med pigtråd, tåregas og kampklædt politi og militær. Det før så humane Europa spærrer nu børn inde bag pigtråd, deporterer mennesker tilbage til den visse død, og lukker øjnene for de kummerlige forhold i den gigantiske flygtningelejr, vi er ved at omdanne Grækenland til.

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Tre børn og en ældre kvinde er begravet her på øen Leros. Alle druknede under flugten fra Tyrkiet til Grækneland.

Der var også de tre syriske mødre på mit hotel på Leros. Hver havde de natten før mistet et barn under flugten over havet fra Tyrkiet mod Europa, og den gamle mand ved siden af mig i sofaen, som mistede sin kone i samme ulykke. De var alle fra samme by i Syrien. Eller den far, som igen og igen gentager:

 

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Fem-årige Suleiman i fængsel i Tyrkiet.

-Jeg har siddet fire måneder i et tyrkisk fængsel med mine børn – tre måneder i et hul under jorden. Uden dagslys. Jeg troede ikke på, at vi kom ud igen. Og jeg så på, hvordan hans had til alt, hvad der var tyrkisk, langsomt åd ham op. Der var også smukke rolige 18-årige Jasmin fra en forstad til Damaskus, som måtte se på, hvordan de græske soldater slog hendes elskede onkel. Og onklen, som spurgte mig, om det her var attituden i Europa. Eller kun 20-årige Hamid, hvis eneste overlevende familie er en onkel i Danmark, som han bare så gerne vil op til. Men Danmark vil ikke have ham, så nu vandrer han hvileløst rundt i Athens gader.

På en måde føler jeg jo en stor taknemmelighed. Jeg har et land, og jeg har et pas, og jeg kan tage hjem, når jeg vil. Jeg rejser ikke jaget rundt i verden på flugt fra krig eller et undertrykkende Talebanregime i Afghanistan. Jeg møder ikke pigtråd og lukkede grænser, når jeg søger tryghed og en fremtid for mine børn. Jeg bliver heller ikke råbt ad af bevæbnede vagter i en græsk flygtningelejr. Eller spærret inde bag pigtråd på en græsk ø for at blive deporteret tilbage til en endnu værre lejr i Tyrkiet eller i værste fald døden.

Nyheder fra Grækenland. En video med mennesker, som skriger i panik. Endnu en brand ved en flygtningelejr i Athen. Sikkerhedsforholdene er elendige i de hastigt oprettede lejre, og en dag vil det koste menneskeliv, tænker jeg.

Jeg læser, at EU har en plan B, hvis den kontroversielle aftale med Tyrkiet glipper. Man vil omdanne Grækenland til en stor flygtningelejr. Så kan de blive der.

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Arian måtte flygte fra Afghanistan med sin familie. Nu sidder de fast i Grækenland.

Det er et stort ansvar med tre små børn, skriver Arian, en afghansk familiefar på Messenger fra en flygtningelejr i Athen. Han er kun tredive, skuespiller og flygtet fra Afghanistan, hvor ukendte gerningsmænd en sen aften overfaldt ham og skamferede hans ansigt med knojern. De brød sig ikke om den TV serie om kvindefrigørelse, hvor han spillede hovedrollen. Næste gang slipper han ikke med at få ansigtet ødelagt, advarede de, før de forsvandt.

-Uvisheden er det værste, men i det mindste er jeg i sikkerhed her, skriver han.

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Grækenland er omdannet til en stor flygtningelejr efter at Makedonien lukkede sin grænse mod Grækenland. Her bor flere hundrede flygtninge på Victoria Square midt i Athen. Politiet ryddede pladsen kort efter billedet er taget.

Familien med de to små børn og et handicappet ankom til Grækenland netop som Makedonien lukkede grænsen mod Grækenland for afghanere. Landet satte pigtråd op, og politi skød på desperate mennesker, som alligevel prøvede at komme igennem. -Vi vil ikke have jer ind, siger Makedonien med EU i ryggen. Først sagde de det til afghanerne, så til alle andre.

-Hvad vil I her, spørger en græsk betjent den afghanske skuespiller og familiefar den morgen i februar, hvor de ankommer med færgen til Athen. -Vi er bare et stort fængsel for flygtninge, siger betjenten.

Nu bor familien i en flygtningelejr i en container med aircondition, og meget makaroni serveret af det græske militær.

-Jeg er forvirret, og indimellem græder min kone stille, sagde Arian, da jeg endnu var i Athen.

Hjemme får jeg et stort knus af Shofiq. Det er et halvt år siden, jeg pludselig rejste fra ham, og i lang tid nægtede han at tale med mig på Skype. Så fik han tre kaniner, og det var alligevel så spændende, at forbindelsen blev genoprettet.

 

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Hvorfor har du været så langt væk, spørger han og putter sig ind til mig.

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Udsigt fra cafeen i Amman.

Jeg sidder på en cafe med udsigt over Ammans hustage og drikker stærk kaffe med kardemomme. Det er i februar og i solen dejligt varmt. Foran mig ryger et par unge tørklædeklædte kvinder vandpibe, og muezzinen har lige kaldt til bøn fra moskeen overfor. Jeg tager et billede af Ammans hustage med alle vandtønderne stillet op på række og læser på BBC’s netavis, at Saudi Arabien nu også vil blande sig i krigen i Syrien. Kongedømmet lige syd for Jordan vil sende soldater, der skal kæmpe på Tyrkiets side.

Den krig er et stort morads. Mon sauderne vil sende deres kampvogne op gennem Jordan på den nedslidte Desert Highway? Jeg sørger hele tiden for at have penge nok, så jeg kan komme hurtigt ud af landet.

Det er koldt på Bornholm, og det sner, selv om vi snart har maj. De første små bøgetræer står lysegrønne, og skovbunden er hvid af anemoner. Ramsløgene dufter, og jeg plukker så mange, jeg kan spise.

Der var forøvrigt også den syriske familie i en forstad til Amman, som var så fattige, at børnene ikke havde noget legetøj.

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Den olympiske fakkel kom også til en af flygtningelejrene i Athen.

 

En selfie tikker ind. Skuespilleren fra Afghanistan står med den olympiske ild i flygtningelejren i Athen.

Jeg blander mig på Facebook i et opslag fra Susanne Bjerrehus. Hele tiden er der falske opslag om flygtninge. Gamle videoer, der bliver lagt ud, som var det lige sket. En ukendt mand sender mig en besked på Messenger. Han kalder mig landsforrædder.

Og hele tiden ved jeg, at i Athens nedslidte gader vandrer en kun 20-årig syrisk mand deprimeret rundt, og i en lejr i samme by sidder en afghansk familie og frygter fremtiden.

 

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I havnebassinet på Øen Kos flød det med punkterede gummibåde og gamle skibsvrag.

En sort sko ligger glemt mellem småstenene på den bornholmske klippestrand. Så mange enlige sko langs strandene på Kos. Så mange punkterede gummibåde. Og skibsvrag i havnebassinet. Og efterladte årer, så flygtningene kunne ro ind, når dunken med benzin til motoren var tom. Jeg kikker på billeder af redningsveste, en hvid barnehue og en glemt tøjdukke med blå fletninger.

 

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En efterladt dukke på havnen på Kos.

Og jeg husker den morgen, hvor et par unge mænd i morgendæmningen lykkelige og lettede tog billeder af hinanden på stranden på Kos. De var netop kommet over fra Tyrkiet. I natten hørte vi skrig fra havet. I håb om at komme de nødstedte til hjælp kørte jeg med en engelsk sygeplejerske op og ned langs stranden flere timer. Vi fandt dem ikke, men forhåbentlig var det dem, som nu var kommet sikkert i land. Ihvertfald hørte jeg ikke om nogen drukneulykker den nat.

Kirsebærblomsterne falder ned som store snefnug og lægger sig som et hvidt tæppe på den asfalterede vej. I Rø maler en kvinde sin postkasse rød. En kold havgus har lagt sig over øen, og det blæser pludseligt op. Jeg kan høre gråd i vinden, der kommer fra syd. Så mange mennesker græder. Det gør jeg også, da jeg hører, at Hamid er sikkert landet i Sverige.

 

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FACES OF WAR – Refugee crisis

 

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Mutahar and Muhtasham are from Afghanistan, but now they live in a refugee camp in Athen, and I met them just before I left for Denmark. Not to stay in the camp all the time they often go with their mum and dad to a park or to the beach to play. They have stayed for three month in this camp, and they are just so fed up with the macaroni, the Greek military mostly serves for them. Their dad have used all his money on the human trafickers to get to Europe, but when he sometimes happen to get some money, he buys cans of tun to mix with the macaroni.

In Afghanistan they were not poor. Their mum and dad had a job, and they had a house and a big family.

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But one night some unknown men assaulted their dad with brass knuckles, because he was an actor in a TV series about womens right. They disfigured his face and said: Next time we kill you. Their dad had to flee from Afghanistan, first to Dubai, but though he had a job there, he could not get a work permit, and he returned to Kabul and the whole family went on this dangerous journey to Europe.

They crossed deserts and they climbed mountains.

All the way his dad told Mutahar that when they came to Europe, he had to go to school. When they reached the coast of Turkey and was able to look towards Europe, Mutahar had big holes in his shoes after all the walking. But luckily his mum saw a pink shoe lying in the bush next to where they were hiding from the police. And so Mutahar came to Europe with a blue and a pink shoe on his feet.

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When they came to Athen, the Europeans had closed their borders with barbed wire for people from Afghanistan, and the family was unable to go to Sweden, where an uncle lives. So that’s why they live in a refugee camp in Athen.

Mutahar and Muhtashams mum and dad misses Afghanistan so much. They miss their family and their friends and their lives in Afghanistan. Sometimes their mum cries silently, but their dad has to be brave, because he has to organize things for their new life and take care of Mutahar and Muhtashams and their brother Ali, who is disabled.

Now their dad might get a job in Athen, because he is very good in English, and they might even get a flat, and they will never ever eat macaroni again. That’s for sure. Never, ever.

 

Here is an interview with the family, where they tell their story. https://kimmie53.com/category/greece/


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FACES OF WAR – REFUGEE CRISIS

 

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The three Syrian women in november at my hotel Mira Mare on Leros. Each of them had just lost a child in the sea, when I met them – and the old man who lost his beloved wife. They are in the reception. The TV runs with the news. Suddenly pictures from the accident. The Greek coastguard trying to save people from drowning. Dead children floating around in the water.

The mothers start crying again, but nobody is thinking of turning off the television. Fatimah (anonymously name) dressed in turgouise turns her face against the wall, the other women and the old man trapped by the television, unable to escape the grisly sight. Fatimah repeats again and again, as she did in the morgue: It is my fault, my daughter is dead.

All night the mourning outside my room. A tall slender woman dressed in black talks on the mobile phone with her husband in Sweden. She talks with a loud shrill voice. Then she cries. Talk again and cry.

The next day the son of the old man arrives from Sweden. Where is his mother going to be buried? And the three children? The families want them transported to Syria, but that will cost a lot of money, which they do not have. All the dead ends up being buried on Leros.

The families want the world to see, what is happening and at that time, we shared the pictures of the dead children in sympathy.


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FACES OF WAR – refugee crisis

 

 

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This charming girl I met in the beginning of my journey, in October at the quay in Kos city. She is from Afghanistan, and one morning, when I came down to the quay with all the small tents, she was just sitting there with her whole family among all the other refugees. She had arrived the same night onboard a crowded rubber boat from Turkey.

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Her and her family had just survived a long and dangerous journey to reach Europe. With human traffickers they had been going through Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey in old cars, in buses and they had climbed steep mountains. Through the mountains her dad was carrying her old grandmother at his back, and her mother carried the baby. She herself had to walk. Now she is tired and hungry, but still able to smile.
Before she can continue her journey to the mainland of Europe, she has to get registered with the police on Kos.
Meanwhile her mother is struggling with her smallest sister. On the three weeks journey the smugglers only gave them bread and water to eat, and her mum have no more milk for the baby. The baby is starving and she only wants to be breastfeeded. She does not want the milk filled up with water in the bottle, UNHCR have given her mum. So now she is just screaming hysterically like babies do, when they don’t understand, what is going on.
Wonder where this little girl and her big family are now?

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