And if it were you? Conclusion

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This is the fourth and concluding part of the true story of the journey of the Adjimi family from their destroyed home in Homs Syria to the Languedoc. Click on the links to read parts One, Two and Three. Hopefully, through this story, readers have been able to put themselves in the shoes of these good people, even briefly, to better understand the reasons so many refugees are seeking shelter in Europe and the lengths they are going through to do so.

At the end of this article, you can read a bit more of the situation of refugees in the Languedoc and the work that Languedoc Solidarity with Refugees (LSR) is doing to try to make their lives a bit easier. 

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And if it were you By Robin Clarke

Questions:

‘When can we go home?’

Well, no-one is enthusiastic about going back just yet. The rubble that is the best that can be said of much of Syria today attracts no one. The Adjimi family home has been destroyed along with everything they own that they are not carrying with them. Times do change of course, and they do long to return one day.

In the 1940s Syria offered refuge to many people displaced from Europe by Hitler. As ?pek K. Yosmao?lu writes “We tend to forget that the direction of refugees across the Mediterranean some seven decades ago went in the opposite direction of the fragile rafts and dinghies carrying thousands of desperate people from Syria today.” One thing is sure: it will change again, even if not in our lifetimes. Those who would erect the high fences to prevent refugees from entering Europe should remember these words.

‘If we survive, what will life as a refugee be like? Will I find work? Where will we live?’

This is easier. Life is life. Life as a refugee, once established, will not be very different from life anywhere else, except from the life of a refugee on the move, trying to reach asylum. Nothing is worse than that, except perhaps the reasons for having to do so in the first place. As to where you might live, you are all still slightly surprised to find yourselves in a warm dry government-sponsored shelter in the south of France. It is cramped and over-crowded but compares well with some of the places you stayed on the way here.

It will not always be like this. Soon Said will find work, and he has already been assured by local authorities that there is plenty of work available for him. Once Said has a job, Riyana and I will be able to resume our conversation about which house overlooking the park would be most suitable for her family, and for the four children to grow up in. Maybe she will tell me why she took my hand on the walk home from school that day?

Will we ever make new friends?

This is easy. You already have made many new friends. Mostly initially through the volunteers who have helped you, but now through their friends and their friends of friends. This is a worry you need never have. The Adjimi family will never lack friends.

Then there is a question I have to answer. Do you remember it? ‘Said’s children are full of energy and embrace the friend who came with us enthusiastically and at length. To my surprise I get the same treatment. Why? I can’t answer this question, at least not yet.

Actually I still can’t. Maybe it is just that these people are warm and loving by nature? Maybe their experiences have made them so? Either way, does it matter?

They might have died in Syria, and they didn’t. Now is a time to celebrate – with a Syrian feast. The future will be faced as the past has been, one step at a time.

By Robin Clarke 2017

Afterword by Gary Kilmer

The story you have just read about the Adjami family is true, though the names have been changed to protect their privacy. I know them well and have enormous respect for the strength shown by Said and Fatima in holding their family together through a long train of harrowing experiences. I consider their children as my own grandchildren and find the storm of hugs with which I am greeted whenever I drop by their new flat to be just the right tonic when energy and patience flag.

The Adjami story is a success story in the end. They are going to be fine. There are many other stories with a happy ending as well. There are also those families who have not been so “fortunate.” They are the ones who lost loved ones in leaky boats on the Mediterranean, or who arrived here safely only to be denied refugee status because they lacked “proper” documents, or who arrived as minors with no one to look after them or protect their interests, or who are mired for months and years in squalid border camps hoping to one day be able to pass through.

Who are these refugees? They could be you and they could be me. They have not created their own problems but they are trying to solve them. They do not all come from Syria. Sadly, there are many other troubled places in the world where it is not safe for people to live. Refugees in our region come from Eritrea, Darfur, South Sudan, as well as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some come from countries officially considered “safe” (Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Kirgystan, Bangladesh) but those countries have not proved to be safe for these people. Who is worthy of help and who is not? That is not for us to say. People without food, shelter, health care or education need help, wherever they are from.

How many refugees are there in the Languedoc? I have no idea. Some have completed their “regularisation” and moved into their own homes in the community. Some are being housed in temporary government-sponsored shelters (CADAs) while their applications for asylum are being assessed. Another group, perhaps the largest, is living wherever they can, sometimes sleeping rough, while their cases crawl through the crowded and sclerotic bureaucratic system. I am sure, however, that the need for HUMANitarian assistance, with an emphasis on “HUMAN” far exceeds the supply at the moment and we all can do more.

Since its founding in late 2015, Languedoc Solidarité avec les Réfugiés (LSR) has accomplished quite a lot:

– We have collected and provided weekly supplies of food, clothing and basic household items to about 50 families for up to six months.

– We have provided housing, food and personal support for four families (17 people) for periods of 4-9 months when they had no alternatives.

– We successfully conducted a very intensive and public action campaign to reverse a decision that would have unjustly led to the expulsion of one family, who have now received their residence permits.

– We have made numerous truckload shipments of medical supplies, blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes, food and other supplies to camps (and informal encampments) in Calais, Paris, Greece, Italy, Lebanon and Syria.

– We have provided financial support to volunteer programs working in those areas.

– We have collected and delivered furniture and household equipment to furnish 10 apartment for our partner, La Cimade in Beziers, to support the expansion of their hostel (CADA) operation as well as for two families, including the Adjamis) moving out of the CADA hostel and into their own apartments in the community.

– We have launched a Facebook Forum (with over 700 members now) and a website and conducted numerous fundraising/awareness building activities around the region. 

Please join us in carrying this work forward. There are many ways that you can help:

– Become a member of LSR, learn more about the real life problems facing refugees and share that information with friends and families. If you are not in our area, search out local organizations where you are and get behind them.

– Respond to “call-outs” for specific assistance from LSR (food, transportation, furniture, medical supplies, French lessons, strong backs, etc.).

– Sponsor or participate in fundraising events.

– Provide housing for refugees and/or serve as sponsors.

– Offer your own ideas.

Many thanks go to LSR member Robin Clarke, who took on this writing assignment at my urging. I know it was an eye-opening experience for him and I applaud how he has sought to share that experience with you.

Readers are encouraged to share this story with anyone who might be interested.

To learn more about LSR please either visit our website languedocsolidarite.com or send an email to gdkilmer@gmail.com.

Gary Kilmer
President
Languedoc Solidarité avec les Réfugiés

Photo 1 – It was a great party to celebrate success for one family!

Photo 2 – Guest room and food bank – food for refugees at La Cimade