Travellers' stories

We are currently in the midst of the largest movement of people across Europe since the Second World War.
In 2015, over one million people made difficult and dangerous journeys fleeing violence or persecution at home and seeking a better life in Europe. The people arriving in Europe face enormous challenges, the ones who stay behind live with uncertainty, and for many thousands, the journey ends in tragedy.


Issam Delwan is a translator for the Croatian Red Cross at Slavonski Brod transit camp. “I escaped from Syria three years ago, when everything went wrong in my hometown of Duma. I managed to get to Croatia, where I sought asylum.”

He worked in Zagreb for a medical company. But he wanted to help people fleeing the armed conflict in Syria. The Croatian Red Cross needed translators and he joined their operation. “It has been hard to meet traumatised people from my own country and others. But it was even more dramatic, when my younger brother was suddenly standing among the refugees at the Serbian Croatian border,” said Issam.

He had managed to get out from Duma and further to Turkey and from there to Greece by boat. “The work with the Red Cross is something I want to do to help these people. It is hard. I might have a smile on my face but my heart is bleeding.”


Her husband left for Europe in 2006 to find a job. Khady has not heard from him since. Click to Tweet

Khady lives with the anguish and pain of not knowing where her husband Mamadou is. He worked as a carpenter in Senegal, but his earnings were not enough to support his family. He made the difficult decision to leave his family for Europe in 2006 to find employment. Khady has not heard from him since. He disappeared on route.

The ICRC and National Societies help families look for their missing loved ones. In addition, they provide economic and psychological support programmes. With the support of the ICRC and the Senegalese Red Cross, Khady is now able to cope better with the loss of her husband.

She now has her own business selling jewelry, perfume, detergent, and other small items. But Khady has never lost hope that her husband is alive and that one day she and her son will be reunited with him


“It’s a very beautiful place but it’s also extremely dangerous. There’s so much crime,” said Flaquita (who, for security reasons, is shown facing away from the camera.) Flaquita explained that where she lived in El Salvador, there were many gangs that recruit boys from a very young age.

“If they threaten you or tell you they’re going to kill you, you’ve no choice but to pack your bags and hit the road.” She decided to leave her country in order to protect her son. They spent several days on the road battling hunger. “Sometimes you couldn’t even get a glass of water because you were an undocumented migrant,” she continued. “You could be raped, kidnapped or find yourself in some other trouble.”

Flaquita disguised herself as a man. Exhausted and dehydrated, Flaquita and her son arrived at La 72, a refuge for migrants in Mexico where she is now working and she no longer feels alone. “You try to salvage what little dignity you have left after your journey, after leaving your country behind.”

Ahmad Al Ablullah

We had to leave because ISIS attacked our city and there was heavy fighting. Click to Tweet

I am Ahmad al Ablullah from Deir Al Zourr.  I left Syria four months ago with my two friends. We came to Athens via Turkey and Lesvos island. We had to leave because ISIS attacked to our city and there was heavy fighting between them and Syrian Army troops. At home I worked in a company which imported and sold toys for children. I was a salesman.

I have three brothers and three sisters. I would like to stay in Germany, learn the language as quickly as possible and then start to work.

Abdullah Al Dahdoh

We all paid $1,000-2,000 to the people who organized the travel to Greece. Click to Tweet

I am Abdullah Shehadon, student from Deir Al Zourr too. I came out from Syria  Turkey with my friends. Then we were taken to Lesvos, Athens and the Balkan route to Germany. We all paid $1,000-2,000 US dollar to the people who organized the travel to Greece. We didn’t have that much money, but my family borrowed dollars for the journey.

I would like to continue my studies and I hope that German authorities will as soon as possible make the decision with the asylum application so that I can start the language course. Life here at this centre is good, but we don’t have much to do. We are eating, sleeping, going to voluntary language classes and playing football!

I am daily trying to find information from Syria, especially from Deir Al Zourr. I have friends back home who are producing material for the internet. It is not easy, when they don’t have electricity and their phone connections are almost always cut off.

Saman, Afghanistan and Lin, Syria

We tried to be strong but when we were in the sea, we were very scared. Click to Tweet

Diana Abdul Karim

I was studying in Aleppo and I was a volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Click to Tweet

I am Diana Abdul Karim and I came 18 months ago to Germany from Aleppo, the largest city of Syria. I was living in Aleppo with my parents. My father is Syrian and my mother comes from Bucharest, Romania. I have both Syrian and Romanian passport, so it was not a problem for me to come to Germany. Many people are not as fortunate as me and had no passport to travel, it is so important to do your USPS passport renewal. To have a valid passport can save your life.

I was studying in Aleppo and I was also a volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. We helped poor Aleppo people by distributing food and hygienic parcels. Before joining the Red Crescent volunteer team I did not understand how many poor people there were in Aleppo. Some 20 per cent had on decent and good life, 80 per cent was suffering. When the war started, things went soon bad and I left Aleppo with my mother for Germany.

When I came here, I didn’t speak any word of German, only Arabic, English and Romanian. But I learned quite fast and now I am working at the German Red Cross refugee camp in Potsdam near Berlin. I can now help Syrians but also other people who have left their home country. It is not always easy to listen to the stories refugees tell us. They have had it hard at home and during the journey, but I hope that they will soon find a place where they can start to live in peace.

Thousands of miles from home


Finally, eight years after they left Iraq, Reem Ahmed and her family have a safe, stable life in the UK town of Derby. “Derby has given us so much. I still think about Iraq but I think my daughter and my three sons will love it here. They will forget their past very soon,” she said.

Reem and her husband were forced to leave their home in Iraq because of the armed conflict. She now puts her English and Arabic skills to good use as a volunteer translator with the British Red Cross – greeting migrants from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Sudan, giving them information and support, and helping them to integrate.

“Today, I am in a good place – I have warmth and shelter and my children are with me. I would like to stay here and live a normal life.”

Muhammed and Hivron

We got separated and I was pushed back onto the train. Click to Tweet

My name is Muhammed and this is my wife Hivron. We got married in Damascus, Syria, one month ago, but immediately after our wedding, we left Damascus for Beirut and from there we continued to Turkey and by boat from Izmir to Lesvos island in Greece.

I am sorry, that you cannot take a proper picture of us. The reason is that we both have family and relatives still in Syria and they might have difficulties, if the wrong people learn that we have escaped Syria.

We both had good jobs before the war started and everything was OK. But the war has changed everything, even the people. It is extremely expensive to live in Syria and prices go up every day. People don’t have money, but there is not much to buy either.

We had a terrible and frustrating experience during this journey. I lost my wife in Croatia. It was chaos at the registration point at Serbian Croatian border. We got separated and authorities pushed me back to the train without my wife. Luckily I managed to talk to a Croatian Red Cross worker and explained what had happened. My train left and I did not know when I’ll see my dear wife again.

Meanwhile Croatian Red Cross had contacted Slovenian Red Cross and told that there is a woman missing and that her husband will soon arrive to Slovenia. People worked hard in Croatia and they found my wife and informed Slovenians that they should stop me at the Austrian border to wait until my wife arrived. Two days later we met again. You can imagine how thankful we both are to Croatian and Slovenian Red Cross people!

Why they had to leave

[an error occurred while processing the directive]
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies