Back in 2018, when I was 17 years old, I decided to leave Iraq, because I was facing religion-related issues. I went to Turkey and stayed for three days in Istanbul, until one day they informed me we are leaving.
We headed towards Greece. We were 12 people in whole — two families and three young people, including me, who traveled alone. On the road I met two other people from Iraq and we became friends. We were on the Greece-Turkey border, we walked until we reached a river. There, we were told that we have to wait until dawn, so that we will be able to see the opposite bank of the river. The weather was very cold and rainy and we decided to sleep under the trees.
I woke up and my clothes were totally wet. Then, we all got on a boat and crossed the river. We reached a path, where a white car approached us. They told us: “Switch your mobiles off and give them to us!”. My friends told me that these people were Greek policemen that would take our mobile phones and money and will send us back to Turkey. That time I lost all hope and got really sad. Eventually, the police officers did not send us back to Turkey, but took us at the police station, where they told us we are going to be transferred to a camp. I calmed down and all hope came back.
They took us to register, where they asked for personal information. I was really afraid to tell them that I am underaged, because I have been told that underage children are sent to prison. So I told them I was 18 years old. They put us in a bus that took us to Thessaloniki and left us there. My friends left me soon, they set out on their trip to Athens and I was left alone at the bus station, not knowing where to go. I contacted a friend of mine through Facebook and he gave me directions to the city’s centre. I spent the night at a hotel and the next day I went to a camp in the area of Diavata.
At the camp they registered my data and told me that I would stay in a tent. I spent there two months. Life at the camp was really hard, especially while snowing. There was a building for underage people though. When I was telling people that I am underage, they told me that I should put my real age on my documents, as life at the camp is better for underage than for adults. So, I went to the police station in Thessaloniki. I could not speak English at all, but I managed to explain them there was a mistake on my documents. They told me there is no mistake and told me to go. I felt sad and desperate. I called my brother who lives in Finland, I explained him what happened and he suggested he spoke to them, to explain them in English. I gave them the phone, they talked to him and understood that they had to fix my personal information.
According to the Greek laws, I had to stay in a room with other underage children in prison, until they find me a shelter. Other children in prison told me that I would stay there for over a month and then I would probably go to a camp, really far away from Thessaloniki or Athens. I was disappointed and scared, but after 16 days the police officers let me know that I would be transferred and stay at a shelter of the International Organization for Migration, in Athens, where they would take care of me. I was so happy! When I first came to the shelter the Arabic-interpreter that was there, was talking to me in a bad way. Thankfully, the next day I met another, very kind, interpreter that helped me.
After seven months in the shelter I got a positive answer about my family reunification. I will go to Finland, to my brother, whom I haven’t seen for four whole years! I will learn Finnish, go to school and follow my dream to become a scientist and study the Universe!
*This article has been published in issue #16 of “Migratory Birds” newspaper, which was released as an annex with “Efimerida ton Syntakton” newspaper (Newspaper of the Editors), on December 28th 2019.