For the week beginning the 5th October they will eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan: a small amount of rice, lentils, chickpeas , beans, fish and oil. Although they are choosing to undertake this challenge for a week, many refugees survive on this food for months at a time. The team hope to not only raise money, but to raise awareness of the plight of refugees in the world.
Almost 8 years ago I made the difficult but necessary decision to leave my country Syria. The conflict had left most people so scared to remain but equally so scared to leave, as if you were caught you could be killed. We left in the evening in a lorry that transported 50 of us. We were squeezed in, there was no seats, just sat on the cold floor, it was a 6-hour journey to the Jordanian border. The drivers told us to remain quiet as we were risking our lives, we could have been stopped or bombed.
The agents who arranged this they had others who they were following, advising them along the way via walkie talkies, what route to take, if they needed to stop for safety.
It was the most fearful 6 hours of mine and my family’s life. But we had to do it and remain quiet and vigilant, the whole time. This cost us 200 – 250 dollars. If you were in my position you would be happy to pay 10 times as much.
We weren’t allowed to pack big bags, so we did not raise any alarms or raise attention to ourselves. We snuck in a carrier bag, few personal sentimental items and documents we couldn’t afford to leave behind, just one item of clothing per person and any medication and very little food; which was inedible due to the fact we were all squeezed together on the bags and each other.
There was a 4km journey from Syria to Jordan border (no man’s land), where we had to walk by foot as the lorry couldn’t drive through this hilly, rocky terrain. It was freezing cold; it was a 4-hour walk. We had nothing warm to cover us as the blankets were too heavy to carry from the lorry. We even removed our extra clothing like over coats, because we were too tired to walk and had no energy to carry anything extra.
We arrived at the border very late in the night. There were thousands of others there. The military guards asked us to spend the night on the borders, we weren’t allowed in by the Jordanian Army. There were over a thousand of us that’s why, impossible to process everyone so late in the night. So, our first night was spent on the border, no bed, no roof, no tent, nothing, just slept on the floor. There was 1 tent but that couldn’t fit a handful let alone thousands. They clearly were not prepared for so many Refugees. When we entered Jordan borders and into the camp, for 3 days we had very little food or water.
Once we entered Jordanian territory, we went through 3 security check points to arrive at what is called the security square area. Between check point 1 and 2 the waiting around and being processed took up to 4-5 hours. We were then taken to check point 2 via a military lorry, food was only available here, we were so hungry we ate not just what was given to us, but also the extra we were told to take with us. It was rice and chicken and small bottles of juice.
We were then taken to check point 3 (security square) after being processed here again, which meant going through our paperwork, taking our personal details, we were then taken via bus 5-6 hours journey to the train station, a freight station for big trucks and cars. We then travelled via this train to the city, Al Mafraq. That was the final journey. This whole process and journey took 5 days. As we spent a lot of time at each checkpoint, 3 days alone at the first. We were so fatigue and tired and could not concentrate, emotionally, physically and mentally tired, all we wanted was to get to our final destination and get some rest.
During this process we slept in tents however we were not given fresh clothing or had access to running water to bathe and freshen up. It was a very difficult, stressing and emotional journey; however, we were grateful that we are now safe, away from the bombs for now.
Upon arriving at Al Mafraq City it took 9 hours for the officials there to get us to the camp. We were waiting in a big venue, here we were given food packs, we had heating, we had a place to pray. Then we were taken to the Al Zaatari Camp.
I spent 1 day in camp and was lucky that I had family who lived in Jordan and moved to their home for 15 days and with their help found accommodation. Not many are this lucky.
I had to find work and support me and my family for 3 years before I came to the UK.
The day I spent at Al Zaatari Camp the Jordanian government ask if we would be interested in any Refugee Resettlement Scheme as part of the UNHCR programme. I said yes. I received a call a few years later to see if I was still interested. They then made arrangements for interviews and I initially was supposed to go to the States but was later told I was accepted by the UK.
The money we received from Jordanian government during our stay was not sufficient enough to survive on, so we found work. 135 dinars a month (£149) was a temporary amount of money given for 5-month basis, a grant that if you were lucky you received. In addition to this you received food vouchers, 15 dinar per person (£16.60 a month), I’m a family of five so we got 75 dinars a month (£83) and this was indefinitely. My rent alone was 122 dinars a month (£135) so we had to find work to survive. We were allowed to work once the benefits stopped.
We were also lucky that charities from time to time donated to us and volunteers would help. During Ramadan many charities would distribute food parcels, but these were one off and not regular.
If you don’t have the means to leave the camp, then it is very difficult here, as you don’t receive any money just a staple food parcel. They have in camp school to provide basic education to your children. Donations of clothing gives you access to clothe and you live in a tent. The conditions at camp are appalling and long term that would be devastating for most families. Life in the camp is not a long-term solution for anyone.
Everyone is seeking a country that they can resettle in to call home. This explains to me why many move on and take further risks until they find that. Just living and breathing alone is not living and life in a camp, is not a life, it’s a jail sentence. We had jobs, careers, homes, dreams, aspirations just like anyone else. All this was taken away from us and what was home, our safe haven, became a daily threat. You will continue to fight and run until you can stop in a country that not only welcomes you, but gives you hope to start a new life where you can build that life, a job, a career, a home, dreams and aspirations again. That’s what any displaced Refugee/Migrant is seeking.
It has been 2 years since I came to the UK and settled here in Lancashire. I am learning English, going to my classes, participating in voluntary work in the community to up skill, improve my English and to give something back as way of thanking this country for giving me this opportunity.
My children are in school, we have amazing neighbours and the community overall have been very welcoming. I am slowly but surely beginning to piece back my life and am hoping to retrain in my profession, so I can continue with my career. However, the scars of this ordeal stay with you and will shape you for eternity.
*For data protection reasons, all names and personal details have been removed. He has given permission to share this and it has been checked by an Interpreter.
To donate to Rosedale Ration Rebels to raise funds for refugees, please click here.