Extended Yazidis (ethno-religious Kurdish group) family of 19 members, including 12 children aged 2-16, left Iraq roughly 12 months ago – but they could not all leave at the same time due to safety concern. It took them 3 months to organize a reunion in Istanbul, so that they could continue their journey together.
After spending one month in Turkey, human traffickers escorted them into Greece, and onwards to Thessaloniki Region, very close to the Macedonian border where they were placed in a refugee camp. In Greek camps – the family spent the following six months.
After a long period of inactivity and lack of any news regarding their future, the family started listening to rumors about persons in Macedonia that can escort people to the destination countries. The decision was made to establish contact with the traffickers and continue their journey – after all, they waited for six months and didn’t know if they are going to stay in the Greek camp for years.
First problems occured soon after crossing into Macedonia - one lady in the group went into premature labor due to stress of walking for almost 10 days (they were not aware that they would not be allowed to enter public transport), and as a result of that simple misinformation – the baby died in Macedonia. After establishing contact with the traffickers in Macedonia, close to the Serbian border, the family felt trapped and soon realized that success stories from the Greece camps were far from the truth. The family found out too late that the traffickers only look trustworthy, but were far from it. Traffickers were in fact –criminals. Criminals separated the family under pretexts that they will cross the border much easier in smaller groups, and that they will be reunited soon after crossing into Serbia. One group was taken into some cheap hotel and the second group was trapped in the wilderness close to Serbian border – but both groups went through similar treatment. Criminals took their documents and burned them; the family was threatened that they will be killed if they don’t find more money … With no way to escape, the only salvation was in giving everything they had to the criminals; including more money, cell phones, gold rings, and chains … everything of any value – just to be released. But they were separated now!
One group was found by the Serbian police and brought to the Presevo Reception Centre (RC) while the others were found near Belgrade and directed to the Krnjaca Asylum Centre, almost 400 km away. In both centres they have been supported with food and non-food items by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (Commissariat) and provided with accommodation.
In Presevo RC, after telling their story the Commissariat; the employees of the Commissariat who are engaged through the EU funded Special Measure Project did everything in their power to locate the other members of the group. The Commissariat was able to organise the family reunion in Presevo RC. After the ordeal, the family is now not considering another border crossing, and when asked to sum up their experience, one member said: “Thank God we are alive – family is the most important thing in the world”.
Family reunited in Presevo Reception Centre