In February 2016, after one semester of Arabic studies in Lebanon, I decided to travel to Lesbos, Greece, in order to do documentary work for an update on the Balkan migration trail to central Europe. This time I wanted to focus on one family to tell the story. In Mytilini, the port of Greek island of Lesbos, I hit pay dirt: The al-Turki family. The al-Turkis are a Syrian family from the contested city of Deir ez-Zour in eastern Syria. The family consists of the father Basem, his wife Khulud, and the kids: Baker, Hamudi, Nour and Lilly. Also travelling with them was the cousin of Basem, Abd al-Rahman, and two unrelated, but close friends of the family, Mohammad and Ahmad.
Members of their family already made it to Düsseldorf in Germany, and they were bound to join them.
Like many before, they crossed Turkey and the Aegean to travel to Lesbos, where I met them. We crossed the Aegean again, this time on a ferry to Piraeus, Athen’s port. From there we took a bus to Idomeni, still expecting to reach Germany within the next few days. By the time we reached Idomeni in late February, the border to Macedonia was still open, but the number of people crossing daily was already so low that the family would have to wait forever. A couple of weeks later, the border was closed indefinitely by Macedonia, making it virtually impossible for migrants to continue their journey onwards. Because the al-Turkis arrived to Greece before the EU-Turkey agreement, they don’t have to go back to Turkey. But they also cannot continue onwards to Germany. They share the same fate with roughly 50.000 other refugees in Greece.
Until late 2017 they were living in a housing unit near Polycastro provided to them by the Greece government. They applied for the EU-resettlement program successfully and now live in Spain, trying to make a living.