The Life of a Refugee

The Life of a Refugee

Photo by Karam Almasri: Man and child during their forced displacement from Aleppo.


Imagine watching disparate groups fight over your hometown with complete disregard for the safety of the civilians that remain trapped there.

Aching for freedom, dignity, truth, justice and peace, civilian dissent is met with a barrage of bullets and bombs, siege and suffering.

Imagine living in fear of abduction, torture, rape, imprisonment, execution and being used as human shields from one side, then facing abduction, torture, rape, imprisonment, execution and incessant bombardment from the other. Imagine there are so… very… many… sides.

How can you survive with nothing and no one? tweet

Maybe your story ends here.

But if none of those things kill or completely disable you, imagine being forced to choose between being displaced from your home or facing certain death.

Imagine everything you owned worn on your body.

Imagine that this body is now wracked with pain and sickness, traveling to find freedom from a war-ravaged land that once felt like home – so many years ago.

Maybe you make it to an internally displaced person’s camp where you will lack all the basic amenities of life and any opportunity of employment to provide for your family.

Maybe you will instead succumb to starvation, illness, landmines or human trafficking on your journey–or maybe even in the camps.

Maybe your story ends here.

Maybe you will make it to the border crossing. Maybe you will be shot there. They think your blood is worth less than theirs, after all.

Maybe your story ends here.

But maybe you will make it across. New country. New language. No citizenship. No rights.

How can you survive with nothing and no one?

Maybe your story ends here.

Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones. Maybe you will be able to get a job. Maybe you will be able to get some semblance of a place to live.

Maybe they will work you like a dog just because they know they can and you won’t dare complain. Fifteen hours a day or more. Sometimes they don’t even pay you – promising “next week, next week.”

But you need this job to send home just a little bit of money to help your suffering family that you had to leave behind. You are far more skilled perhaps than the labor you do here, but with limited opportunities and no proof of education, what other options do you have?

However this new country isn’t far from home, so those who wished you dead can still hunt you here. Imagine doing your best to survive in a new land – only to be assassinated by those who displaced you to begin with.

After all, existence is resistance.

So maybe your story ends here.

But let’s imagine you live. Let’s imagine you save enough money to afford a smuggler who promises to take you to Europe – where you’re told opportunities are better.

Maybe this smuggler is really a human trafficker. So once more you face abduction, torture, rape, imprisonment, execution.

Maybe your story ends here.

But let’s say that the smuggler is what he says. Imagine giving all your money to a stranger who has only a business incentive to help you survive.

Maybe your raft will be overloaded with others like you. Maybe the raft will be damaged or faulty. Maybe your life jacket will be filled with water bottles. Any way to turn a profit, right?

Maybe your story ends here.

Darkness is the only way to travel–it’s harder for the authorities to see you at night.

Phone slowly dying. Trying not to get it wet. This tiny glowing screen is your only connection to everything.

Maybe the sea will claim you. Maybe the other traffickers will abduct you. Maybe the police will find you. Will they take you back or let you move forward? Can you even plead your case not knowing the language?

Maybe your story ends here.

Let’s imagine you land at Greece. What then? How long will they keep you in the crowded camps with sub-par or nonexistent necessities of life? Maybe you will get killed there by a rivaling group. Maybe you will die from lack of medical care. Maybe you will kill yourself in hopeless desperation. Maybe you will be denied asylum and be sent home to die.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you are granted refugee status in some new country.  tweet

Maybe your story ends here.

Years ago you would have been able to make your own way to Europe – with enough money, fake identification, know-how or moxy. But now, you’re kept in cages on Greece – both borders and hearts closed to you- waiting for release.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you are granted refugee status in some new country. You don’t get much of a choice. What will you find when you go?

Will this country give you housing? Maybe, maybe not. Will this country offer any monthly stipend until you can establish yourself? Maybe, maybe not. Will this country even allow you to legally work ever? Maybe, maybe not. Will this country provide opportunities to learn the language or finish your education? Maybe, maybe not. Will this country give you access to medical or mental health care? Maybe, maybe not.

Will this new country make you jump through endless hoops and wait exorbitantly long periods of time to get anything? Most certainly.

Will this new country provide you any opportunities for growth? Maybe, maybe not.

Will this country make you feel like you are a welcomed member of its society, or a terrorist pariah whose existence eats away at its very fabric?

What kind of existence is the latter?

An all too common one.

So let’s say you are one of the lucky ones who walks through fire and quicksand to establish themselves in this new land. Let’s say you learn the language, get the job, go to school, act like a model citizen…

What are you left with?

Eventually, all this struggle and suffering fades the soul.  tweet

Many years later, thousands of miles from home, in a country that hates you, navigating a system built to destroy you, working like crazy just to send a little money back to family, going to school desperately hoping for better – all this – all this as you watch your family still suffer from acute need, your hometown fall deeper into destruction, your future feel further from reach – far from peace.

Imagine all this occurs under the apathetic watch of the so-called international community. If their words of condemnation were turned into real action, the war would have ended long ago.

Eventually, all this struggle and suffering fades the soul. You search and search for hope but can no longer feel yourself on the inside.

Maybe your story ends here?

Or maybe the journey continues…

It’s the life of a refugee.

Now Reading:
The Life of a Refugee
7 minutes read
Search Stories