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Syrian refugee jumps for joy after finding asylum in Moldova

Telling the Human Story, 19 November 2012

© Dimitri Doru
Raghid Jened became a refugee when he was unable to return to his native Syria and is now working in Moldova as an ear, nose and throat doctor.

CHIŞINĂU, Moldova, November 19 (UNHCR) Syrian-born Raghid Jened is a success story for the integration of refugees: a doctor, a certified Arabic-Russian translator and a passionate skydiver, he doesn't see himself living anywhere else than Moldova.

Before coming to Chişinău 13 years ago to study, Jened knew little about Moldova. "I only heard that it is a small and safe country, where people are kind, just like in Syria," he said. "And now, after so much time living here, I can confirm that these things are true."

His first days in Chişinău were difficult, especially because he didn't know the language. At first he regretted his decision to study outside his homeland, but soon he started learning Russian and some Romanian and found new Moldovan friends who made him feel at home.

"I am lucky to have people by my side who care for me just as my parents do," Jened said. Moreover, he feels Chişinău is his home not only because he watched it grow and develop, but also because he now knows it better than his own town in Syria, Homs.

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011, just as Jened was completing his medical degree with a speciality in otolaryngology at one of Moldova's leading hospitals.

As the fighting across the country worsened, his home town of Homs was deeply affected. His parents are still there, he said, doing their best to survive, but because of the bombings and fighting they live with friends while his brother is now in hiding. Jened has not been able to speak to his parents in weeks as telephone lines only work intermittently. He hopes to be able to help his parents somehow although it seems very difficult to evacuate them for the time being, he said

Because of the ongoing conflict, Jened was unable to return to Syria. Instead he approached Moldova's Refugee Directorate to seek asylum as a refugee sur place and was granted complementary protection. At present there are 75 Syrians with protection in the Republic of Moldova, most having arrived over the last year.

Since obtaining protection, Jened has received legal and social support as well as financial aid and in-kind assistance from UNHCR and its implementing partners, for which he is very grateful.

But he is not helpless and has skills to contribute. With his local medical degree he found work as an ear, nose and throat doctor in Chişinău's main hospital, the Centre for Mother and Child Care. "I enjoy working with children and I plan to keep working with them," Jened said.

Apart from loving his work as a doctor, Jened is passionate about skydiving. "I started jumping in 2003, just out of curiosity, afterwards I couldn't stop," he said smiling broadly. He obtained a professional skydiving license in 2011 and jumps as often as the weather allows.

Recently, to demonstrate his appreciation for the support that UNHCR has provided, he took several UNHCR flags on one of his jumps to promote the UN refugee agency's work.

When asked about his future, Jened excitedly speaks about his hopes to eventually obtain Moldovan citizenship, his wish to obtain an advanced Doctor of Medicine degree, and his desire to help his parents and ultimately to start a family in Moldova, which, at least for the time being, is his home.

By Irina Ungureanu in Chişinău, Moldova




Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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