In 2015, more than one million migrants crossed into Europe by sea or land. According to the International Organisation for Migration most of them crossed by sea. 800,000 refugees travelled from Turkey to Greece with half of that number coming from Syria.
I have been reporting on these people in Greece, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Men, women and children fleeing from war, poverty and misery. They came from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan but also from Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria. All of them are dreaming of a better future, all of them are full of hope and high expectations. I will always remember three young asylum seekers I encountered this year on my assignments. Their spirit and courage, even if they are uncertain about their personal future, may serve as an example to all of us.
Ahmad is a leader, there was no doubt in my mind. Being a refugee himself, he still felt responsible for the young people around him. He was guiding a group of teenagers during their trip through Europe. On the train from Vienna to Munich, Ahmad confided to me that he wanted to become a news reporter. After one hour, he could already boast to have produced his first report. Thanks to his help, I was able to portray some asylum seekers on the train. His charismatic personality, beaming smile and impeccable Arabic made him an incredible asset to side with.
Nowadays Ahmad lives with his two sisters in a house in Saarbrucken (Germany). His father, mother and younger brother are still in Turkey, some 40 miles away from their Syria. Of course, the whole family wants to join Ahmad in Germany. And Ahmad still yearns for a future back home: “I didn’t leave Syria voluntarily. I wanted to create my own projects there but the war destroyed all my plans. I had to flee. But the moment there is peace, I will be on that first plane to Syria. I want to see my country again. Even though I realise that my future will be in Germany, my heart still pounds for Syria.”
In his refugee centre, Ahmad met a Syrian girl from Aleppo. Her name is Memo and after some hesitation Ahmad could really talk to her. Perhaps it was the shared emotions, the common experiences or just knowing their fate is both uncertain, anyway, since a couple of days, Ahmad is engaged to Memo. They don’t think too much about practicalities now, they just want to be happy together.
“But you have to come to our wedding,” Ahmad writes me, “in Germany or Syria, whatever happens, you’ll have to be there.”
I smile when I read his words and I do hope their wedding can be held in Syria.