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Following of the chronicle from Celine Barre on refugees in the Balkans.


Lesbos – September 8


Europe’s good kisses …

The arrival is scheduled at 8:30 am at little morning. The more we move closer to the coast over us what I feared getting closer. Hundreds of tents along the quay, mothers, children, old men are stuck here on the island of Lesbos. They are blocked and waiting to let them pass and a ferry ticket. This ticket will allow them to reach Athens and mainland Europe. Some may have to wait more than 10 days to get that ticket, then this will take for me 2 minutes to buy it and leave the island; minor issue for me, a chance unaffortable for others.

The streets of Mytilene are crowded. It is over 35 degrees, the children exhausted, sleeping on the floor in the arms of their mothers, their fathers, silent, exhausted. Tourists, locals, shopkeepers, everyone seems overwhelmed by this situation, but the climate remains serene, welcoming. Syria, War is two countries far from here. Unlike Calais where ambient segregation prohibits refugees to enter in cafes, here people speak Greek, Arabic, Farsi, Persian, Pashto and French in bars.

Abdel Aziz 13 years old, he arrived two days ago in Lesvos by inflatable boat. Accompanied by his twin brother, his six month pregnant sister and his father, he addresses me by saying that his country is the most beautiful in the world! Damascus is the most beautiful capital, even Paris and the Champs Elysees, compared it’s worthless! He tries to soften his malice reminding me that it has very good football team nevertheless …

Abdel Aziz is the kid that we does not show in the media, smiling too much, too happy to match images of migrant masses of hundreds of people who invade Europe to the delight of extreme right speech.

Abdel Aziz knows that later he will be doctor (or football player) in his country, when the war is over. You think I could have dual nationality? Franco-Syrian? German-Syrian? His country (the most beautiful in the world) already miss him. He has left his mother too weak and cousins with whom he enjoys playing football. He asks me about France, on asylum, on fingerprints taken by force. It seems that the people there welcomed us in the stations applauding us, is it true? I do not know what to say, yes there is a generosity in Europe, an awareness that we must welcome. I too have seen the video, these kids applaud as they arrive. I’ve seen others also, these kids who are currently stranded at the borders between Greece and Macedonia between Serbia and Hungary. And these kids here, exhausted, dirty, weakened. Abdel Aziz seems to protect himself with his doctor dreams (or football player).

He sees a map of Europe in my bag, asks me to get it out. We localize Lesbos, Athens, Belgrade, Budapest, Berlin, Paris, Paris Saint Germain we pass by Olympique Marseille … He explains that he knows all the capitals of Europe, and all the football teams Europe … I do not doubt it.

He asks me the road, the way into Germany: how many kilometers? Over 2000 km man. His face hardened, older. He looks at his big sister six months pregnant who smiles sympathetically at him… No Mouchkila! No Problem! we are safe now …

I think back then to my journey to get here, to him. Four days of meetings during which I decide to take the bus or train or plane. I venture to hitchhike to finally opt for the train. I hesitate to take the plane to come to Lesbos but I take the boat trip which cost me 150 euros, for which I have not once shown my passport, my identity, because I have this pretty face, the one that goes everywhere, undocumented … The European face. The borders exist to Abdel, 13, they are almost non-existent for me. The trip of Abdel began more than a month ago, fleeing from Syria to Turkey, while healing the trauma of leaving his mother stayed behind him because the trip is too hard. No visa, no possibility to legally join Europe. Taking the plane ? Abdel, look… resigne yourself …  This luxury is reserved to Europeans …

Abdel, your trip will take about 2 to 3 months, you will have to cross many borders, you will have to pass under the barbed wire fences, in the rain, at night. Abdel, you’ll have to be discreet, you are not considered a refugee. At the moment you are in the “transit migrant” category … Patience …

You will have from the top of your 13 years old, exceed your fear of the police, batons, tear gas. You’ll probably have recourse to smugglers to mafias. You’ll like today in Lesbos, have to sleep outside on cardboard boxes at stations if they accept your presence, in squats, sheds.

Once in Germany or France, you will perhaps be lucky enough to meet caring people who will welcome you but if this is not the case, you will be “transferred” in reception centers, where other boys of your age are waiting to be considered “legal” in the territory. In France, this procedure can last up to 2 years. For this, your dad will have to justify your persecution. He will need to be convincing your dad, they’ll have to give the details. Yes daddy may have to justify the fact that your mother is stayed behind. Maybe he can mention that you applyed for a visa but your demand was denied. Europe prefers to welcome you after 3 to 4 months of obstacle course. European papers, they must be earned my little man!