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Waiting for Relocation

Photographer: Yannis Kolesidis


A photograph published on the front page of the New York Times on 25 May 2016, on the website and in many other media outlets, showing Syrian refugee Nidhal Al Harfoush, 36, and his two daughters Ghadeer, 7, and Gharam, 6, carrying their belongings as they walk towards Greek policemen during the evacuation of the makeshift camp in Idomeni, Greece is the starting point of this story.


This picture gave the opportunity to the family to find a home in Nea Karvali, a town close to the city of Kavala, Greece. Spanish volunteer Angie Carabassa, who had met the father and daughters during their days in Idomeni, recognized them in the picture and after a short inquiry about their transference conditions, he had eventually managed to find them a home, through the Spanish NGO “Himaya.”


In his hometown Swedda, Syria, 36-year-old Nidhal used to work as an aerobics and pilates instructor, with a massage license and also taught in state schools. After four years of war, he had to make a difficult decision: To send his wife and children abroad in order to be safe. However, in Syria it is the father who signs in the name of the children to get a passport, which meant there was a real risk that afterward the authorities could ask him to conscript in the army. In such a case, he’d lose his wife and children and maybe even his life during the war. The second choice was to send them away and depart from “the love of his life”, as he calls his wife, and take personally over all the responsibilities of raising the children - always at risk of being conscripted.


His wife Wafaa left Syria on 22 November 2015 and after a long journey, she managed to reach Germany. When the war worsened, Nidhal sold his house for only 4,000 euros, which cost about 8,500 euros. On 01 March 2016, he and his children embarked to travel to Turkey. When he managed to pass at the coast of the Greek island of Lesvos, he had only 150 euros left. For the next months, and with borders to Europe closed, the three of them wallowed in the muddy waters of Idomeni abusive camp, lighting a bonfire outside their tent to keep warm and lining up for a meager portion at the soup kitchen.


Today, Nidhal, Ghadeer and Gharam live along with other three Syrians and a newborn child at a house rented by NGO “Himaya”. The house doesn’t have many comforts but at least the basics are provided. The house rent, electricity, water and internet are paid by the Spanish NGO and the six Syrians also receive 200 euros per month for the rest of their expenses. They use this money to buy rice, milk, and pasta, as well as diapers, house cleaning and personal care products. The neighbors are friendly and the girls walk and play at the swing near the house. Their father tries to fill the void of their mother’s absence. In the evening, he exchanges messages with his wife hoping they will reunite soon. He misses her a lot and the girls keep asking about their mother. Nidhal will have his first interview for asylum in Greece in February 2017 and then he will have to wait to be relocated.