When The Call Comes
A Syrian family makes one more risky journey, this time to learn their fate.
There is no call more important to the Syrian refugee stranded in Greece than the one from the Greek Asylum Service informing her that finally, after months of agonized waiting, there is a European nation willing to take her in. The polite man on the other end of the line won’t name the country; instead, he instructs the refugee to take a chartered bus to Athens for an in-person interview–these usually take place within the next 24 hours. “It is a destiny-defining moment,” says one refugee, who put off buying diapers for his newborn daughter in order to save up for a battery charger for his phone. “You can’t afford to miss that call. You bring your phone with you everywhere you go. You never let it die.” Taimaa Abazli, a 24-year-old mother of two, missed that call. She had a good reason: her 4-month-old daughter Heln had just been diagnosed with an acute bronchial infection, and in the frenzied rush to the hospital she left her phone at the hotel where she and other refugees had been staying. By the time she and her husband Mohannad realized their mistake, it was too late to call the asylum office back. The appointment was scheduled without their being able to explain that the hospital wanted to keep Heln on an IV drip for three days, or that taking the infant on a 10-hour bus ride to Athens might put her at greater risk of developing pneumonia. To Taimaa, nothing was more important than her daughter’s health. Mohannad worried that if they missed the interview, the family’s entire future would be at stake. The couple argued well into the evening, and Mohannad prevailed. Against doctor’s orders, Taimaa checked her daughter out of the hospital, and she and her family boarded the overnight bus to Athens, with Heln bundled up against the cold, still struggling to breathe. Under any other circumstance, Taimaa says, she would be excited to take a journey that promised to reveal, after months of waiting, the first solid glimpse of her future as a legal resident of Europe.
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