How to be a refugee from Europe

How to be a refugee from Europe
How to be a refugee from Europe © Mahmoud Alsasry

Damn it! People are killing each other in the streets. Fighter aircraft are shelling missiles on your head. Watch out! tanks are bombing indiscriminately. Areas are besieged. Your cities are ruined to the ground one after another by the regime and the insurgents. Congratulations! You have a civil war in your homeland and have to leave at once!

Tragically, all the neighbouring countries are blocking borderlines and preventing you from seeking a new opportunity to live again. Belgians, Germans, Frenchmen and even Englishmen deserted you. They left you all alone. Europe is no more what you used to live in. You are now, according to them, a killer, troublemaker and dangerous to their stability. At best, you might transfer your ‘newly psychological harms’ to their lands.

Reasonably, you will think of sailing over the seas to the lands of dreams!! After all, it would be lovely to reach the Gulf Corporation Council countries: Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

But wait a second! You have lost all your fortunes in this surreal war. You don’t have the needed money to travel with your big family. You will be lucky if you find a real friend that will lend you what you need to travel by your own self. After all, you would not put the lives of your loved ones at the risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. No one would like to see his/her loved ones eaten by sharks.

With these ideas, you will be a totally different person. The world will take all of your distinctive titles and grant you another one. Congratulations! You have been awarded the honour of being a refugee!

Mamma Mia Italy.. I am on my way!

Your first step will be calling one of your friends or relatives who already have reached the fairy lands of GCC countries. They will take hours and hours to talk about their heroism: How they were smuggled across the European countries until they reached Italy. They will recommend you some ‘saint’ smugglers and condemn others by calling them ‘devils’.

You would love to cross the borders of the countries on your way towards the GCC countries. Jumping over the border fences is a great way to prepare yourself to participate in the Olympics’ 110 meters’ hurdles! Dogs and police officers have a magical power that will make you a champion in front of this world.

Now that you have reached Italy, you are advised to go to Palermo or Catania. Hurry up! Do not focus on the delicious Italian pasta and cacciatore. Your family will be waiting for you under the bombs. Your kids and wife might be killed anytime while you are escaping from the army. Remember to call those ‘saint’ smugglers who can ship their ‘goods’ safely to the prosperous part of the world. Yeah, you heard me correctly: ‘you will be one of the goods for those saints!’. If they are saying that the lists of journeys are full, just implore them to take you as soon as possible. They will find you a faster solution by taking an extra couple of hundred euros. No! Don’t think that you have lost anything. Winter is coming and all journeys will be stopped. That will be a terrific win-win deal.

‘Sailing will be a fairy tale’.

At least, this is what smugglers will say to you. They will calm your fears towards safety. Unfortunately, you have to believe them because you have no other way to calm your tension towards the sport of sailing in a fishing boat.

Pay attention! a smuggler will look at you in the eye and say decently that there is no need for life jackets, nor for bringing any food. This macho-man will take care of every tiny detail of your ‘luxurious’ journey. He will show you a warm picture of the so-called ‘flotilla’ that you are going to sail with.  And guess what! That saint will love to let you cross the seas with some company. Yeah! How about traveling with 200 or 700 people who would likely make you more fit to bend your knees for several days?! How about entering Guinness World Record for hunger or not sleeping?! How about a disgusting toilet that you will never dare to enter?! How about forcing you to eat rotten bread and food?! Such a company will be calming through your way between death and life.

Let those mean ideas come into your mind but do not allow them to make you intimidated. Never!! Sooner or later you will forget about such ideas in those fairy lands.

Now you are more than ready to start sailing! Welcome aboard!

Days of Suspense

When you are hiding among the olive trees while waiting for that small fishing boat to come at night, look at the stars and let your imagination write the name of your kid on the sky. That name will be the mascot saving you from all harms. Try to hold on. Seasickness might doom you all of the trip. You will never eat. All what you will need to get is water. Those smuggling sailors will prevent you from taking water anytime. Rather, you will get three tiny sips of water a day. ‘Water is limited’ they will tell you.

You have to survive! All what you need is sticking to the dreams of your kids. Their laughter. That lovely hug from your wife. Your memoirs. Your desire to be a normal human again. You have to face your destiny with a resisting soul. Say repeatedly to yourself: ‘I will not die and I will never lose my morals!’. That will make you stronger when you see your sea companions fighting for food or water. Just hold on even if you see those fierce mountains of waves. Don’t listen to curses or prayers. Just imagine yourself singing to your kids those sweet songs before sleeping.

Fairy Lands

Oh, my god!! Those oil tankers came on time! They have given you a safer journey and provided you with magical food comparing to what was offered in the boat. Within a couple of hours you will reach Egypt! You breathe the lovely breeze for the first time in your journey and feel safe. All what will come to your mind will be giving your family a call. Your sound will faint while trying to connect to the Egyptian 3G network. You will see hundreds of messages on your Whats app and Facebook.

You are safe enough to smile for the camera that will take a photo of you at the shores of Egypt. Don’t be scared! The photographer will be accompanied by nurses. All what matters is watching out for those dialect experts that will talk to you. They will know from what province you come from. So, don’t forget your dialect.

Suddenly, someone will come and give you a number! You have to hurry up! Rush into the bus heading towards the asylum seekers center. There you will meet new friends. Do not hesitate while talking to those Bedouins offering to guide you to Saudi Arabia. Let them take care of it all. That will be better while crossing Sinai desert and the humidity of the Red Sea.

You might face a camerawoman from an Egyptian TV Channel during that trip who will give you a chance to meet Mohamed Aboutrika himself, who is no inferior player to Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi himself! Don’t think that she will kick you out of hatred. No dear refugee! She will be teaching you how to get chances in the Middle East. All what you have to focus on is being positive!

Congratulations! You are now in a GCC country! Yeah! And guess what?! you will be given another number while taking your 10 stamps. Try not to give that usual fainting smile of refugees while being pictured. From now on, you have to accept being that number for at least one year. When you reach the Middle East don’t believe that every single person there will be waiting in queues to shake hands or take a selfie with the champ.

Don’t be surprised Mr./MS. Refugee. You are not a champ! Don’t even think that the relevant governmental bodies will never ask you about papers and documents. No way! All what matters is knowing the first GCC country you have entered, not being a human. Don’t assume that universities would wrestle to enroll you in their departments. Don’t imagine that top employers will ‘beg at your feet’ to work with them. However, don’t give up! Put that shiny smile on your face and show that needed respect to the GCC culture and traditions.

The first step will be learning the language. It might take a few years, but you have to understand that chasing dreams requires a lot of effort. Even I, the Middle Eastern citizen, should learn your language if am obliged to flee to your country. The second step is drinking no alcoholic drinks and eating no pork. People of the Middle East will appreciate your sacrifice and understanding their red lines!

You should also not forget to ask your wife to wear a hijab when she comes with your children after two years of waiting during the family reunion procedure. After all, such a period of waiting is not so long. It is, in fact, understandable with all of those thousands and thousands of applications provided to Immigration and Naturalization Departments in GCC Ministries of Interior.

What will be important is staying in harmony with this Arab saying: ‘Hey stranger, be polite!’ Being polite includes restraining your wrath if you see a report fooling a fellow refugee with presents for being the 50.000th refugee in your new GCC homeland. Keep calm while watching the extreme right channels showing statistics confirming that only thousands from the millions of European refugees in the GCC countries work. Your situation should not be clinical if you see lots of the GCC citizens treating you like an exploiter of their social assistance. Don’t try to explain that it is not really easy to re-settle and it might take more time to be productive again. They will never understand that you were forced to flee. They will keep considering you as an economic immigrant.

All your fault will be belonging to your ‘devastated European land’. All your fault will be belonging to that forgotten part of the world.

Illustration: © Mahmoud Almasry

Dit artikel verscheen oorspronkelijk op, een online magazine waar schrijvers en journalisten met een vluchtverleden begeleid werden bij het publiceren van artikelen in het Nederlands.

Als gevluchte journalist probeer ik de kloof tussen werelden te overbruggen en mensen te verbinden. Dat doe ik via het zoeken naar en het schrijven van menselijke verhalen. In 2014 belandde ik in Nederland. Sindsdien ben ik bezig initiatieven te ontplooien om Nederlanders en vluchtelingen samen te brengen.