January 4, 2017
I arrived in Luxembourg in October 2015. My family and I left Syria on 12th December 2012. I have lost my brother and many friends in the Syrian civil war. They died in awful ways. We left Syria because I could not allow this to happen to my family. We thought that life would be safer for us in Jordan. I was working as a cook. There are approximately 1.4 million Syrian refugees currently living in Jordan. Most of these Syrian refugees are living in the local communities rather than in camps.
Life is not good for Syrian refugees in Jordan. We do not have a clear right to work in Jordan. We need a work permit.
We hoped at first that the situation in Syria would calm down and that we would be able to go back home after a few months of exile. This did not happen. I stayed with my family in Jordan until 2015. When it became obvious that there was no possibility for us to go back to Syria and realising that we were barely surviving in Jordan, I decided to leave for Europe.
My mother, my wife Seba and my three children Hosni, Mohamed and Ferial and are still in Amman, Jordan. My family lives in a suburb called Al Hashimi. I rented a basement room for them. When I left them last year, I gave them a small amount of money to survive. Whenever I can, I send them more money. My boys are attending school in Amman. My daughter, unfortunately, is not going to school. The school is very far from the place where they live.
I am afraid that my daughter might get kidnapped. She is only seven years old. My boys were nearly kidnapped twice in Jordan. Syrian children in Jordan are especially vulnerable.
Two of my friend’s children were abducted. Jordan is not a safe place for Syrian refugees.
My wife Seba is sick. She needs an operation. I recently applied for “family reunification”. I hope that my family will soon be allowed to join me here in Luxembourg.
I did not want to risk the lives of my wife or children by crossing the sea. I also did not have enough money to pay for the journey of all of us.
I left Jordan in 2015 and flew to Turkey. I crossed the Mediterranean from Izmir. The smugglers asked me for 1200 dollars. I gave them 900 dollars. I crossed the sea in a rubber boat with 56 other people. The journey took five hours. I arrived on the island of Chios.
I somehow managed to find my way to central Europe by following the other groups of migrants. I took many trains and busses to cross Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria and Germany. I also walked a lot by foot. The journey was dangerous.
When the other migrants stopped to rest, I would continue, following another group. I became obsessed with reaching a safe place.
In Hungary, I sadly witnessed the now famous incident with the Hungarian journalist pushing a refugee carrying his child. You can actually see me on the video footage. I am wearing a women’s pyjama. I remember how cold I was.
Serbia was awful to cross. We slept outside in the cold. I remember that it was pouring with rain, I actually thought that I would die. My only desire was to reach a country that would allow my family and I to lead a safe and decent life.
I met an Iraqi refugee in Saarbrucken. We stayed there together for a month and a half realising that the conditions were very hard for refugees. My friend told me that he had a cousin in Luxembourg and that we should both have a closer look at the situation in Luxembourg. This is how and why I arrived in Luxembourg, by chance.
I stayed at this Iraqi family’s place for seven days. I was mainly resting. I was exhausted, dirty, and badly dressed when I arrived. A week later I asked for asylum.
I still have contact with my Iraqi friend. He lives in a refugee center in Sanem. People think that we are from the same country but I am a Syrian Muslim and my friend is an Iraqi Christian. But we still get along well.
I have witnessed tensions between Syrian and Iraqi refugees here. Mainly because many Iraqis do not understand why their asylum procedure is taking so much longer than the asylum procedure for Syrians.
I am living in a refugee center in Insenborn. I am fine there. I am learning French. It’s not an easy language to learn. I am starting to be good at speaking it though. I have met many very kind and helpful people here.
My only wish is that my family will be allowed to join me here soon. It hurts to be separated from them for so long. I can’t bear not holding my children anymore. It’s been 16 months since we last saw each other. I deeply miss them.
In Aleppo I worked as a stone mason for fifteen years. I hope I will find work in this field in Luxembourg. Now that I have my refugee status, I have realized that finding accommodation is going to be a huge challenge. I do wonder how I am going to find a place to live for my family and I.
(Note from the editor: a few days after the interview, Firas was informed by the Luxembourgish government that his request for family reunification was authorized. His family should be able to join him in Luxembourg within a month.)