"There was a stench of smelly feet, but it was the safest place we’ve experienced"

Conditions in the Moria registration site on the Greek island of Lesvos have improved substantially over the past few months. When a Syrian family recently spent the night in Moria their biggest problem was the stench of smelly feet.

The family left Damascus in late December last year due to the civil war in the country. Everything was destroyed and their street had been hit by several bombs.

"We were just waiting for our house to be the next one to be hit. The different fractions continue to accuse each other of what is going on - and in the meantime, the civilian population are suffering," says 40-year-old Sliman. He fled Syria with his family and hopes that he can ensure an education and a future in Europe for his children aged 11 and 8.

Scary journey

Sliman, his wife and their two children are tired but relieved, after they have arrived to Lesvos after an exhausting flight through Lebanon, Turkey and across the Mediterranean. Lesvos is not far from the Turkish coast, but the journey across the Mediterranean is dangerous. Especially when there is a lot of wind and big waves and the journey is made in small, overcrowded boats. In 2016, so far, 410 people have died during the trip across the sea.

"We went from Istanbul to the Turkish coast, and when we finally got there, we spent five minutes before we got a life jacket each and were pushed into the rubber boat by the smugglers. We were 34 adults and 17 children on the journey - and we ended up being picked up by the Greek coastguard who then took us to Moria. The journey across the sea was very scary - especially because we had our two children with us. Their future is the only thing I can think of," says Sliman.

The family now has to take the ferry to Athens before they can move on; hopefully towards better times.

"We slept one night in Moria; in the dormitories. It was really nice, but there were many people, and a stench of smelly feet, so we opened the door and then it was a bit like sleeping in the woods. At the same time, it was the safest place we have experienced on our journey. We also got dry clothes for the kids and food. It was a great relief - and now we are looking forward to move on," said Sliman.

Friend hit by missile

The civil war in Syria has driven more than 12 million people from their homes. This family is just one among the many who have had to leave their home - in the hope of a safe future.

"Shortly before we decided to flee, my daughter's friend was hit by a missile while my 11 year old daughter sat beside her. The friend survived, fortunately, but she now suffers from severe brain damage and will never be herself again. I cannot expose my children to living in a country where they could be hit by bombs. I hope we reach a place where they will be safe, can get an education and some good friends," said Sliman, and continues:

"I used to own a t-shirt factory in Damascus, but it was destroyed by a bomb in 2013 and since then we have been living of contributions from our relatives, since it wasn’t possible for me to get another income. In Syria, there was no water and no electricity and no future. We fled for the sake of our children and we just want a place where our children can get an education and a future."

The best country

It is however with a heavy heart that they have left their home country.

"Syria is in my view the best country in the world, but we are too afraid to stay there - we just want peace. I have to think of my children," said Sliman.