Syrians who already left their country more than a year ago and fled to Cairo in search of a better life, are actually leaving Egypt to reach the European shores. As legal immigration is almost impossible, they look for the only possible way to travel: crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Risking their life, leaving their business and paying more than $3000 per person, thousands of refugee Syrians reached Italy and moved to North Europe to seek asylum.
Some of them die during the trip, while others are caught by the Egyptian police while sailing the waters. Other refugees are jailed in several prisons in Alexandria and Beheira and are then deported to Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.
It has been a year since the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria in Egypt, began receiving in large numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland. When he first arrived in Egypt from Syria, a little over 10 months ago, 33 year old Alaa felt welcomed. However, like many Syrians in Egypt, Alaa’s life went from bad to worse after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was deposed this past July. The situation has now gotten so bad that he is contemplating risking his life and being smuggled by boat to Italy.
When we first arrived in Egypt Morsi was in power. At that time Egypt was welcoming Syrians. Everywhere we went, public or private, we were welcomed. When the political situation in Egypt changed everything else changed with it. When Egyptians encounter foreigners here it causes problems. People are stressed, they are dying in the sea just because they don't want to be alive anymore and their country “Syria” was destroyed. Indeed if I will have the chance I will leave. Life here is no longer possible. Our relations with the arabs are over, they don't want us anymore.
The trip from Alexandria to Italy is extremely dangerous, uncomfortable and expensive, costing around $3000. However, Laurence is so desperate to leave Egypt he is willing to take the risk and pay the money. He is now spending his days in his fiancé’s house, waiting for the call from the trafficker to go to Europe, where half of his family will be waiting for him.
All over the world these trips are called “The death trip”. We do believe that we will die anyway, we have no life in any country because of the way the countries see the Syrians. The trip is in a fishing boat made to hold 40 to 50 people, but in fact it is carrying 400 people. The trip takes almost 5 to 6 days and you have to face all the risks. My parents trip was supposed to take 5 days to reach Italy, but the fishing boat was damaged and there were earthquakes in the sea of Cyprus. They saw death in front of their eyes, and they were out of water and food, and suffered from thirst and hunger. They spent 11 days at sea, 5 of which without eating or drinking, and they had to drink water from the engine, they really suffered before help arrived. They were stuck in the sea, they suffered too much on this trip. Some of them were injured, a girl lost her leg, a woman had a heart attack, and a child broke his hand. They were just left at sea, and if the red cross and the coast guards hadn't rescued them , they would have all been dead. All this suffering just to reach a country that respects human rights.
The Syrian war has generated one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. Syrian refugees now number in the millions, scattered both across Arab countries and in western ones. Europe accepts Syrian refugees if they are already inside European borders. However, if refugees outside Europe try to reach there through legal means, they will almost always be denied entry. The only alternative they have is illegal entry to the EU.
130.000 refugees registered in the UNHCR. I attended a meeting in Amman for UNHCR in Amman. The total number expected in the, it will be five million Syrians. Five million if the situation stays as it is.
These numbers are alarming, but they are only one part of a wider exodus of Syrians. They do not include Palestinian Syrians. Because they are Palestinians they cannot be registered by the UNHCR in Egypt. Until now, almost 5 thousand Syrians and Palestinian Syrians have left Egypt to reach Italy by boat. The departures are continuing, with almost 2 boats per week attempting the perilous journey.