From the Field: European Refugee Crisis
From the Field: European Refugee Crisis
By Katerina Ilievska
SOS correspondent
 
Gevgelija, FYR Macedonia—It's a scorching hot summer day. Under the shade of a blue tent at a child-friendly space, a dozen children play with wooden blocks. Among them is a young woman, holding a small baby on her knees.
 
Seven-month old Farid* has big blue eyes and blond hair, bearing a strong resemblance to his young mother, Rima*.
 
Rima stands up holding Farid on her chest. She does not speak any English. A young man from the neighbouring tent, also a refugee, jumps up to translate.
 
"Syria, from Kobani. Husband is in Germany. They go to him." I feel that nothing is lost in translation.
 
Rima is reserved and exhausted. The baby's arms and legs are slim and limp. His eyelids go up and down heavily. He has trouble holding up his head and keeps leaning on his mother's shoulder.
 
I gesture if I could touch him and Rima nods.
 
When I start tickling him, he grabs my finger. His grasp is weak, but he doesn't let go. I tickle his bare feet with my other hand and that's when he starts smiling.
 
"Oh, you smiling little rascal, you," I say in Macedonian.
 
Rima has no idea what I said, but at that moment, she brightens as her gaze meets the bus arriving at the camp.
 
As Rima pulls down Farid's shirt, I notice he has a freshly healed vertical red scar on his chest. "He had heart surgery in Syria," the young man who is still here translates. "She wants to move quickly. She wants him to see doctors in Germany." The young man continues to translate Rima’s Arabic,  

"We travel with my brother-in-law and relative, we left Kobani a long time ago. We first travelled by boat, then on foot. I carried Farid the whole time. He lost a lot of weight on the way."


Rima is anxious to board the bus, but the ground workers try to explain that a taxi from the southern to the northern border would be better. "Take a taxi. Split the cost with your relatives. It's better for the baby," we all try to persuade her.
 
Rima waives her hand, dismissing this idea. "She's scared of taxis," the young man translates. Rima has heard stories of abductions and robberies.
 
"You'll be okay; it's not like that anymore. The taxi will take you to the border with Serbia in two hours, a bus takes at least four," we all try to persuade her to take the shorter, more comfortable drive.
 
Rima hesitates because her documents are with the police. A volunteer says she will try to get the police to speed up Rima's registration for her intent for asylum—a document that grants her a legal 72-hour stay in Macedonia. "I'll do my best! They have so many registrations. Everyone is a priority."
 
Indeed, everyone is a priority.
 
"This morning I walked outside the site," a ground worker shares. "In the tall dry grass, I found a child almost drowning in his own vomit. Who knows how long he was there. He was dehydrated and barely breathing. I took him to the medics on site." No one asks any further questions.
 
The conversation restarts to practical issues. Arrangements to transfer Farid, Rima and their relatives to the nearest transport are being made. Hope is in the air!
 
"He'll be okay! He'll get to his daddy soon!" everyone encouragingly shouts. Farid gives a loud giggle as we watch the young mother scurry away.
  
Daily arrivals from Greece are estimated at around 5,000 people with a record number of 7,000 Syrians arriving in the last few days. There is a significant and increasing number of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children, as well as unaccompanied and separated children. SOS Children's Villages is taking action to help the situation of refugee and migrant children who have arrived across Europe. Because SOS already has a presence in many of the countries affected, we're caring for children, providing basic necessities and providing long-term support.

To learn more about how the European refugee crisis is affecting children and families, visit our European Refugee Crisis Page.

*The names of the mother and the baby boy were changed for their protection.
 

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12/8/2015 8:52:36 AM

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