September 16, 2015 / 10:52 AM / 4 years ago

Refugee journey: Feeling like a beggar on streets of Athens

ATHENS, (Reuters) - Sitting on the street outside a travel agency in the Greek capital, Abeer and her two daughters wait while her husband arranges a money transfer from relatives so they can continue their journey.

Salah, a technician from the Kurd town of Hassaga, Syriam holds his 2-month-old daughter while traveling to the Macedonian border in Greece September 12, 2015. Picture taken September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

For Abeer, whose husband was a health ministry employee in Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zor before they fled the country’s civil war, it’s an uncomfortable experience.

“I never thought that one day I would find myself in such a situation,” she says. “I am ashamed to expose myself in such a way. Everyone is watching. I feel like a beggar.”

Their journey has already been long. After fleeing their home in Syria and crossing into Turkey, they paid traffickers to arrange their crossing on perilously ill-equipped boats from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands.

Twenty-six-year-old Abeer, her husband Ihab and their daughters finally arrived on the Greek mainland at 5 a.m.

Many other refugees and migrants seized the opportunity to shop for food, but Abeer’s family have run out of funds. “I have to wait until the sun comes up so that my brother in Germany can send me money,” Ihab says.

After a five-hour wait Ihab returns with the cash. A travel agent offers bus tickets to the Macedonian border for 50 euros but, worried the offer is a scam, they hesitate.

Eventually exhaustion and desperation to make headway win out, and they accept. Macedonia is just the first stage on the long route north for tens of thousands of refugees heading for Serbia, Hungary, Austria and finally Germany or another prosperous EU country.

It’s an arduous journey, and Abeer is not the only one struggling to adapt to refugee life.

On the bus to the Macedonian border, 16-year-old Mehieddine, a student from the Syrian capital Damascus, can’t help thinking of home. “When is school re-opening? I miss my friends,” he says.

(Reuters photographer Zohra Bensemra is following a group of families fleeing the war in Syria and seeking a new life in Europe. This report comes from Athens.)

Reporting by Zohra Bensemra; Writing by Dominic Evans; editing by Andrew Roche

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