'There Is Death On The Sea'

Sitting down next to her sister, Halima draws her feet up onto the chair and wraps her arms around her knees. She slowly moves her head, as if responding to the different voices in the conversation taking place around her, and every now and again she smiles a beautiful gentle smile.

Samira explains that Halima has a psychological condition. In Syria, her sister received all the care and treatment she needed. They tried to remain in Syria for as long as they could. They were the last to leave their village and only then when a bomb fell on their home and rendered them homeless. They fled Aleppo in 2014.

Travelling with her two children and Halima, Samira describes the journey as being a treacherous one.

‘They told us before we passed that there is death on the sea. They said “if you are lucky you will pass.” We were scared. We were praying to God for us to pass safely. We bought the safety jackets so that we wouldn’t be drowned in the sea.

Everything went in the water. We were throwing our bags, everything. They said “your life or your bags.” So we threw the bags.’

After spending more than a year and half living as refugees in Turkey, Samira decided to journey to Europe to try to rebuild her family’s lives. She describes a harrowing crossing, during which people suggested that she should throw Halima into the sea.

The small family have been in Greece for seven months now. Halima doesn’t really understand where she is.

‘Halima has got lost in the camp many times. The police had to search for her. She cannot understand which tent is for her. She has some problems and they are not helping her while she is here.

We went out from the war of our country to find a better life and now it is like we have a psychological war because of what we are going through every day.’

Samira looks exhausted, as though the life is slowly draining out of her by being here. She finishes speaking to me as so many do - by looking away, into the distance, perhaps with nothing left to say.

I glance across and notice Halima wandering around alone outside her family’s tent. Later, I look up the meaning of her name, ‘humane, gentle’.

It’s a tragedy that the situation Halima and her family have found themselves in here can be described as neither.