This article first appeared in the HuffPost on 13/7/2016. The original text can be accessed via this link:https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ahmad-alrashid/syria-refugee-crisis_b_10967290.html
It has been one year since I arrived in the UK coming from Syria. One year ago, I made the perilous journey from Syria all the way to the UK. I joined thousands of people who made the difficult choice to resort to the sea to escape the five-year long and brutal war in Syria. A war which has brought the country to its knees and forced half of the nation out of their homes and caused one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War Two.
I was among the lucky ones who made the journey and reached to the last destination safely, thousands of my fellow refugees couldn’t make it. I know of people whose journey was so short that it ended when they were shot dead while crossing the borders fleeing Syria. Others were more fortunate to survive siege, arrest, bombs, shells and knives in Syria, but they were less fortune when they faced the sea unprepared – they were traded by greedy smugglers and their lives were lost along with their bodies in the sea. Thousands of these desperate souls were lost for the sea, these souls tragedy became headlines for a couple of days and they were forgotten, their memories will not be forgotten by their loved ones.
My journey took me to different places and I met different people and faced death at multiple times while making the journey. I had one thing to get me going and that was hope. I had to develop this notion that things will get better if you are positive and hopeful. It was not an easy thing to develop to be honest, imagine spending five years in a war zone where all you see, feel read and write about is death and only death. Five years were enough to smash your own country, future, dreams and took away your loved ones. It is very difficult to find hope in a place struck by the worst forms of war. I had to look for hope in the tears of wretched mothers and the smiles of orphaned children. I had to search for hope among the rubbles of my destroyed city and dig deep in the history and read about how nations recovered from destructive wars and got back on their feet.
It took me two months to get to the UK. I arrived in hiding in the back of a lorry because I didn’t find a better way to get here like normal people do. My nationality and war in my country had made it next to impossible to have a visa where you can fly to where you want with dignity and without the fear of being stopped, interrogated for very long hours or deported somewhere else.
I arrived in the UK and was so lucky to get the refugee status which meant I can stay in the country legally, work, study and thrive. I was over the moon when I heard this news, it meant that you are here now, you can start new, it is a new country, a new life and a new start. It wasn’t an easy start though, imagine yourself arriving in a new country and everything thing you have is only the clothes you are putting on.
Bureaucracy has made my new start difficult and challenging, I faced homeless and hard times. What made me overcome these difficult times was the great help and support I received from people I never knew before. I met wonderful people in the UK from all walks of life since my arrival. I was given a room in a house with an English family who shared their house, time and love with me. I spent about four months living with Nina and Timothy and they were always there for me whenever I needed advice and guidance.
I managed to get a family reunion visa for my family to come from Syria join me. This was great news for me but this news brought more pressure as I had to find a place for my family to live in. The pressure didn’t last for long when I was approached by a landlord who told me to move to one of his flats without paying a penny till I am back on my feet again. We had our flat fully furnished within 48 hours by a group of passionate volunteers.
The common thing among all of the people I came across was hope. We need hope now more than any time before, it is crucial to promote the narrative of hope and turn our failures and disappointments into opportunities. These are difficult times for all of us with all the mess in the world the narrative of hope will do us good to get over the difficulties and differences and work for a better tomorrow.