My Journey - From Syria to Leicester
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The Race Equality Centre in Leicester & Leicestershire
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Friday 9:00am to 4:30pm
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Address: 2nd Floor, Phoenix Yard,
5-9 Upper Brown Street,
Leicester, LE1 5TE
Tel: 0116 2042790
Fax: 0116 2042791
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To my children……….
in Syria “My precious babies,
so tender and dear;
I can feel your love,
from far ….. or near...
It's been so long,
since you've felt my touch;
I hope you know,
I miss you so much...” (1)
“Wherever I roam, whatever realms I see,
My heart, untraveled, fondly turns to thee;” (2)
“If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk
forever in my garden.” (3)
My story has started eight months ago and I can assure you, brothers and sisters that I can walk forever in my garden, for I did leave Syria physically, but my soul, mind and heart are still there. My family, friends and memories are still there. My home is still there with all the efforts, love and time it took to be shaped and made the cosiest, loveliest and dearest place ever.
If I had known I would flee the country and leave everything behind, I would have never made my house the centre of my life, and would have never cared for its tiniest details which have become so special and memorable.
I was the lucky one in my family to flee first to save the rest from the agonies of the present crisis in Syria, and its future consequences. I took the chance and never thought of the price, or even the value of what we sacrificed to make it work. Nor have I thought of a farewell to my beloved house though I knew it will embrace and shelter the four parts of my heart: my three kids and my husband for months to come.
It was September the 7th when I set off from Damascus to Lebanon to catch the plane heading to France. I had a legal visa on my passport, or travel document – as it is called for the residents of Syria of a Palestinian origin like me. I met my two brothers in Charles De Gaulle Airport, and started together a series of attempts to reach England. We roamed the streets of Paris for seventeen days looking for an agent who would help us reach our destination. We even considered plan B and went to Calais and Dunkirk for a possible car or truck journey.
Eventually, I got a passport that enabled me to arrive to England by plane. I was so lucky and felt the blessings of Allah helping me succeed from my very first attempt.
I was detained at Manchester airport for a full day, I can never forget the contradictory feelings I went through during that day- the happiness of success in my first attempt and the fact that mission was accomplished, and I reassured myself: well …I am here, it is done, everything will be ok soon, …., then comes the deadly feeling of hurt to one`s pride in detention where I cannot talk to anyone or move anywhere without permission. Both feelings shed my tears, and I constantly tried to hide them with my sunglasses… knowing I was watched. ... The next day, I was allowed to accompany my brother to Middlesbrough and I had my substantive interview seven weeks later, I was informed that a decision will be made in two to three months. I began my days of waiting and felt what it means to have waiting as the main constituent of your days. I was stressed out and this caused me health problems, and had to leave my brother`s house to stay for ten weeks with a specialised nurse who became later my closest friend and sister. I started at that stage volunteering with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations, which was a considerable relief, and helped me defy the long hours of waiting.
On the 1st of February, I began a different phase of my journey when I got NASS accommodation in Birmingham. I stayed in a hotel with other asylum seekers and started to like the city as I commuted on a daily basis looking for a solicitor for my family reunion later. The city started to appeal to me and I could find the right solicitor for my case. However, after 24 days in Birmingham, I was moved to another accommodation, and it was in Leicester.
I was almost the only dweller of a shared house for almost two months. My first week in Leicester was the most difficult one I had to experience the harsh meaning of loneliness and strangeness.
A week later, I met ladies from different countries and started meeting them regularly. I also resumed my daily trip to find the right solicitor for my case in Leicester.
Two months later, I got my residency. The irony was that I started the process of family reunion myself after all my earlier efforts to do it through a solicitor in Birmingham or in Leicester. It took me a lot of time and effort and, at last, it was done. I booked an appointment for my family in Lebanon that will mark the countdown of our pain and waiting. But as I was expecting the good news of submitting the papers on time, I knew that they had to wait for six hours at the Lebanese borders and that they missed their appointment. I rushed to the Red Cross in search of someone to contact the centre for another appointment, but no one could help me in this regard.
It was a nightmare for all of us to think of another appointment on another day and more inhumane situations. Thanks to God, things went well eventually, and they arrived at the centre and managed to arrange another appointment the same day.
I will move from my temporary house in two days to unknown place with similar or different difficulties and challenges to those I had with my shared rooms in Birmingham and Leicester. I surely know that I will have to wait again, but with a hope, this time, that things would be different after a while and that the coming days would bring me settlement in a house, or even a room, to live the privacy and settlement that I missed for so long.
I feel that this eight-months journey has added a lot to my life and personality. But still I am awaiting the most essential addition after all these long days and nights- the far away fragments of my soul and heart to enlighten my life with love, life and peace.
To end, Ladies and gentlemen ….
I would like to thank all the brothers and sisters in Hope for Humanity and The Race Equality Centre for supporting me in Leicester and wish you all the best in your efforts for a better community. Yes, we all can make a difference and can better our lives together when we remember that we are all humans, and that we have to stand shoulder to shoulder to help one another.
And I would like to share with you quotes on humanity by Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa respectively:
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” (4)
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”(5)
Also, I would dare to borrow Martin Luther King`s words and say -
“I have a dream
I have a dream to see
Syria safe and peaceful after 5 years of blood shed
I have a dream to see
Peace and liberty in Palestine after 68 years of occupation
I have a dream to see
Peace and safety in Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, India, Myanmar and all over the world.
And I sincerely pray
For the mothers who lost their children in wars… to have Patience
And for our fellow displaced humans…. to be secure regardless of their religion, colour or ethnicity.
I also pray for children wherever they are…….to be safe and live peacefully.
Last but not least, for the hope for humanity to flourish and become true, “we have to remember that” we want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other`s misery. We don`t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone”. (6)
(1) Carsen Rettler
(2) Oliver Goldsmith
(3) Claudia Ghandi
(4) Mahatma Gandhi
(5) Mother Teresa
(6) (Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator)