Refugees send their messages to the UK
16 September 2016
From the war in Syria to conflict in Afghanistan, crises around the world mean millions of migrants have been forced out of their homes by war, poverty and persecution.
Pope Francis tells us that refugees are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. And when we asked you to send us your messages of hope and welcome for refugees, the response was overwhelming.
Over 8,000 of you sent messages telling refugees you are thinking of them and praying for them.
We took some of your messages to refugees living in camps in the Greek city of Athens to hear the stories of people who have fled their homes, and to hear the messages they would like to send back to people in the UK.
Fatima, in her twenties and from Afghanistan, is alone with her three year old son Emir. She hopes to join her husband, who has already reached Germany, but doesn’t know if or when the borders will reopen. She says: “I have been six months living in Greece, and one month in this camp. This camp is good, there was one place in town where I was sleeping and it’s difficult for me being alone, I don’t know if a family I’m sleeping next to is good or not good. I hope I will go to Germany when the border is open again. I can’t stay in Greece, I have no home, no house, and it’s a big problem. I’m from the Hazara people [a minority group] in Afghanistan, and Daesh target us for killings. It’s not safe in Afghanistan, every day there is a bomb. European countries are good, and safe, and the children go to school. I just want to be in Germany. Every day when I wake up here the baby is crying to me ‘I want to go to Baba’ [Daddy]. I last saw my husband 10 months ago, but we speak every day.I am alone in a tent with my baby, with all the refugees living in tents next to each other.I don’t relax. Some days I think about going back to Afghanistan, but it’s not safe. I would join my husband but the border is closed. I can’t stay here. How can all these refugees stay in Greece? All the refugees are sick, it’s a big problem. Life here is not good.”
Kalpesh, 23, was a computer hardware student in Pakistan. He says after he fled with his brother after two of his uncles were killed. He says: “I have now been in Greece six months. I would like to go to France, Spain or Italy, where my uncle lives. It is a bad life here: I am living in a tent, I sleep on the ground, everything is dusty and dirty. I am also sick, and recently spent a month in hospital. I came here for safety, and now I’m here I won’t go back. My younger brother who is 20 is here with me also, my two sisters are married and living in Pakistan. My brother and I want to travel on together, there are no jobs here in Greece. Here in the camp people are smiling at us and are nice to us, but if we go outside, people are very hard. If I ask somebody on the street, “please could you tell me directions” they will look at me and say “get away, get away”. Outside there is no lovely language, only people being very hard. Some Greek people have said to me that they don’t like refugees because their country is already very poor. In my heart, I am a person like everybody else. I tried three times to get to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but the police arrested me and told me to go back. My message to people in the UK is that life as a refugee is very hard.”
Masoud, 22, says he fled Afghanistan to avoid being recruited as a frontline soldier by Daesh. He says: “In Afghanistan, there is a lot of Daesh, and when I was younger, they wanted to recruit me to fight for them on the frontline. I don’t like fighting, so I left and came here. I came here alone. I would like to go on to France or Germany. Germany would be best, because I have a friend who lives there, but France is a good country for refugees. I pass the time here playing football or I go swimming at the beach. In Afghanistan I went swimming a lot and got quite good at it.Unfortunately, I didn’t have any work at home. For my future, I want to continue my journey and when I get to France I want to have a good job.It is good to be in Europe, but things will be better when I get to France. I don’t have a mobile phone or money so it’s only occasionally that I can call my family. When I arrive to France or Germany, I will be happy, but not right now.”
Credit for all photos: Natalia Tsoukala/CAFOD