Nothing can stop me except bombs: a Syrian refugee’s epic swim to safety

For Saïd, the escape to safety was like a triathlon. To reach Europe he walked and ran many marathons from war-torn Syria to Turkey, before wading into the Aegean Sea in the dead of night and taking a desperate risk – to swim to Greece.

By Charlotte Hyest, IFRC

Saïd is the oldest of four children. His parents insisted he leave Syria and urged him to head to Germany to find the rest of his family. Although daunted by the journey ahead, he vowed to make it to safety.  Following a dangerous crossing on foot to Turkey, he was  separated from Greece by 6km of open water. With no money to pay smugglers for a perilous boat crossing, he decided to swim.

“I realise it was a bit crazy, but what would you do in my position? Nothing can stop me, except bombs,” he said. “I have nothing to lose. It was the only way I could carry out my parents’ wishes.”

Saïd waited until the early hours of the morning before he left, to avoid the attention of Turkish police. He left a 4am and swam for three hours, terrified and thrashing his way through dark water.

“Throughout the crossing I thought of my mother,” he said. “I believed I was going to fall asleep and die in the sea, but I remembered my mom. She was my light.”

Exhausted, Saïd eventually crawled onto a beach on the Greek island of Samos and headed to the harbour to register his arrival with authorities. The young Syrian was nursing a foot injury picked up on his journey and was treated by medics from the Hellenic Red Cross when he arrived.

In Samos, the Society treats an average of 400 migrants per week for everything from sprains and wounds, to sickness and dehydration.

Saïd said: “The Red Cross doctor took care of me, as my mother would have done. I am exhausted but I am feeling relieved.”

For those who flee violence and persecution, the road to Europe can be long and dangerous. More than 3,400 people have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling on all to protect people along the migratory route and reduce the need for people to take such high-risk journeys.

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Nothing can stop me except bombs: a Syrian refugee’s epic swim to safety