20 June 2016
“In Syria we were scared of everything. We were very careful each time we used to go out, wondering what might happen, if we are going to come back home alive,” 16-year-old Leen
This World Refugee Day (20th June) the British Red Cross has released a new video telling the remarkable story of 16-year-old Leen and her journey from Syria to Germany.
The British Red Cross first met Leen when she arrived at a refugee camp on the border of Macedonia and Greece last November. She had fled her home in Damascus with her younger sister and mother, and was travelling to Germany to be reunited with her father. Exhausted and shaken, she was relieved to have reached temporary safety.
Months later, Leen got in touch with the British Red Cross via Facebook to say she had finally arrived in Germany. The charity travelled to Frankfurt to find out how she was settling into her new life. Despite the happiness at being reunited with her father, Leen expressed a deep sadness at having to leave her home country.
Leen is just one of tens of thousands of refugees who have arrived in Europe over the last year fleeing conflict, violence and persecution, most of whom have survived horrific journeys and taken great personal risks to get here. The British Red Cross is calling for Europe to offer more safe and legal routes for refugees to reach a place of safety, including through family reunion.
Leen said: “I wish I could have stayed in Syria. It is my country and it’s very beautiful. But the situation is terrible. I can’t go to school or do anything there anymore. That’s why I am here in Germany. I hope to be able to study here and have a future.”
Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support, said “Leen and her family had to endure a horrific journey fleeing the danger in their hometown in Syria. It’s wonderful to see her settling into her new life in Germany, but unfortunately for thousands of others their story does not end quite so happily.”
“Widening the family reunion criteria would be one of the most safe, secure and cost effective ways for the UK Government to do more to help ensure refugees who right now remain torn apart from family and in need of protection can be together again and in doing so help avoid the terrible journeys which for so many, remain their only option.”
Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rRtId7Ewxk
Notes to editors:
- The British Red Cross is the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Family reunion work has been a key activity of the British Red Cross since 1992. So far in 2016 the British Red Cross has reunited 606 family members through its travel assistance programme.
- The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.
- Monday 20th June is World Refugee Day, followed by Refugee Week, which celebrates the contribution refugees make to our society, and encourages a better understanding between communities.