Syrian citizen, M spent most of his formative years and indeed all his adult life in Damascus, Syria. His father Syrian born, his mother native of a country in North Africa. M fled Syria with his wife and two children. Separated from his family during the journey to Greece, his baggage and with it all his papers were swept overboard during a rough crossing in a crowded rubber dingy. At registration, he could not therefore prove his identity or his nationality. This is not an uncommon occurrence. His wife and children are still lost to him: their location unknown.
Registered in error as a citizen of his mother’s country of origin, the lawyer assigned to his case failed to have his citizenship corrected on his case file, an error critical to his asylum application. His application for asylum rejected twice, he was arrested for deportation to Turkey. For reasons that remain unclear, M was transferred from prison to prison.
When in Chios on transfer between prisons, ELA visited him and took up his case. A stay of deportation is now in place for an as yet undetermined period. While in custody, he suffered a terrible beating: kicked and punched by four police officers suffering injuries to his legs, stomach and back, parts of the body unseen when clothed. Evidence of this beating still remain. During a fire that invaded the prison from the neighbouring camp, he and his fellow prisoners were left locked in a smoke filled cell with flames lapping the windows, while the guards fled to safety. Fellow prisoners were and some still are on hunger strike. One is known to be on hunger strike for 43 days. In all he spent three months in prison before recently being released to an ‘open’ camp, 20 minutes drive from the nearest town and shops.
Yesterday, we met him outside the refugee camp after his recent release from prison – an ‘open’ camp on another island. Together with Doctors without Borders, we went over his case and were given a photocopy of his Syrian passport sent to him by a family member still in Syria. To date there is no news of the whereabouts of his wife and children. A strong, resilient and gentle man, we spent the day with him – the youthful appearance of a man in his early thirties is no longer. He has lost a lot of weight, his hair and beard are now white, his appearance is now of a much older man.
CHOOSEHUMANITY will continue to provide Emergency Legal Aid to M and other cases.