Living in camps and shelters is not easy and is causing many refugees great distress. For 25-year old Syrian refugee Basma, however, the stress of a shelter or camp is not as severe as the horrors she faced with her two children by foot on the Balkan route from Syria to Germany.
"Is this Germany? Did I finally reach it?" This was how Basma reacted when she arrived in Germany after a difficult journey from Syria that lasted more than a month. Along with her two children, she escaped the brutal war in her home country. Her first stop on her journey was Turkey. Like many other refugees, she did not feel that her childrens' future would be better in Turkey, so this led her to continue the trek to Europe.
A few hours before they were scheduled to go on a rubber boat from Turkey to Greece, they learned in the news of the story of Aylan Kurdi. Aylan Kurdi was a Syrian refugee boy who drowned in the Mediterranean while his family tried to reach Greece from Turkey by boat. Fearing for her own two children, she wanted to then return to Syria. But this was not as easy as it sounds.
Another Syrian family encouraged me to flee with them through the forests on foot secretly to reach Bulgaria. They told me that the road through the forest was safer and a smuggler then convinced me that the trip would not take more than three hours,Basma told InfoMigrants.
Horrific journey through the forest
The smuggler's view of how long the journey would take was not accurate at all. The trek through the forest took three days and Basma and her children were not prepared enough.
We had to sleep in the woods between the rats and insects, without food or anything to drink. My son was suffering from asthma, and the lack of water almost killed him,she said.
After 72 straight hours of trekking through the forest, Basma and her children reached Bulgaria and were forced to stay there for 15 days. She was detained by Bulgarian authorities and "because I refused to get a stamp when I entered Bulgaria. I wanted asylum in another country and didn't want to stay there."
Stressful life in refugee shelter
After the Bulgarian authorities released Basma, she went to Germany. Her first stop was Munich and then Berlin. She eventually setted in a town called Meckenheim near the city of Bonn in Western Germany. She was then transferred to a refugee shelther, and because she was alone with two children, she was not allowed to be independent in a private room. She then had to live in a shared room with a Palestinian family, meaning there was a lack of privacy. In addition, the center was in a completely cut off area from other houses and shops. "When the children were starving at night, I couldn't bring food to them," she said. Despite the stressful life in the refugee shelter, "it was better in comparison to our journey through the forests where there was kidnapping and theft," she said.
Basma stayed in the shelter for two more months, until her asylum request was granted. She received the right of subsidiary protection and could reside in Germany for a year. She started looking for an apartment but it was not easy as many landlords did not want to rent it to refugees. "The town of Meckenheim is not that desirable for many Germans so in the end I managed to get this apartment," Basma said. She is grateful for her friends who helped her find the apartment and her two children have a private room and a kitchen where they can cook whatever they like.
Nostalgia for home
Although she is happier now, she cannot forget her home city. "I adore Damascus and the smell of coffee reminds me of my country." There, Basma worked in a hair salon. She now dreams of being able to master the German language which will allow her to do an hair dressing apprenticeship and enter the workforce. Although finding a job in Germany might not be easy, she believes that "patience and determination will make the impossible possible."