Majid, standing just beyond the tattered raft, clutches his daughter, Nour, and his youngest son, Taha, as tears stream down his face.
“They said if you get to Kos, you don’t say you are from Iraq, you say you are from Syria, because otherwise they would send you back to Turkey,” said Adel, who was an English teacher in Iraq.
They fled Iraq in August, Adel explained, after they began to receive death threats and payment demands from a Shiite militia. Having made it to Greece, meanwhile, their voyage was far from over. Over the next several days, they would travel on a ferry boat to mainland Greece, then pack into a large shipping truck — not unlike the one where 71 migrants recently suffocated to death in Austria — before arriving in eastern Europe. Nour, who is 7 years old, had been fully submerged by the frigid waters near the end of the boat journey, and grew ill. “She had a fever, and for three or four days, she wouldn’t eat anything,” Adel said.
“We want to go into our own house,” Adel said. “We want to cook, we want to have privacy — here there are shared bathrooms, shared kitchens, it’s not good for us.”
Still, she is grateful to Germany for taking them in, and hopes to be able to stay. “We hear everything is the best in Germany — they will care for our children, give them a complete education,” she said. “Maybe I can find a job as a teacher in English, maybe my husband — he is a very good car mechanic — maybe he can find a job doing that. We don’t know if this is a real possibility, or if it is just a dream.” -Joshua Hersh and Michael Hastings