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Jordan: an arduous and perilous journey to safety

Students in this Jesuit Refugee Service school in East Amman learn English vocabulary pertaining to immigration matters. Classes like these help to restore a sense of normality in the lives of refugees and teach them practical skills. (Angelika Mendes/Jesuit Refugee Service)
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(Amman) October 16, 2013 — Jesuit Refugee Service works in Jordan with refugees from Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia. Here, Mohsen* from Syria shares his story about his flight from his home to safety in Jordan.

Before having to flee my home, I took a degree in accounting and worked for two years as an office manager in a public agency. A month before the conflict broke out I had got engaged to Aneesa*. We never would have guessed how difficult our engagement would be.

It all began when fighting broke out in March 2011, affecting my neighborhood, located in a suburb of Damascus. In fear for our lives, my family moved to Damascus city center. We rented a very expensive, small house from one of those unscrupulous landlords who exploit desperate people in need of a roof over their heads. Our landlord kept increasing our rent until it was unaffordable to remain there.

After hearing that the authorities came to my relative's house and interrogated them about me, I felt insecure and knew my fiancé and I had to leave the country. They wanted to arrest me because I had participated in many demonstrations in my town and lived in an area where demonstrations were common.

Risking everything. I needed to avoid being arrested, so I decided not to apply for a passport or cross at an official border point. The journey was really dangerous as I had to move alone from Damascus to Daraa crossing many military checkpoints and running the risk of arrest or execution.

After making an appointment with a smuggler, I crossed the border in December 2012. I was alone; we were accompanied by many women, children and older people who had travelled on foot for miles. As we neared the border, we were shot at. We ran as fast as we could to save our lives.

One of the smugglers guiding us through the border described how two of his friends were killed the day before in that very same place while helping other Syrians enter Jordan. Once across the border, I made my way alone to Zaatari camp**, in northern Jordan.

It was horrible place to live; it was like a prison; a very chilling place, without healthcare, food and water for the people living there. I was afraid, alone and without money or warm clothing1.

Reunification. Fortunately, a Jordanian friend intervened on my behalf with the camp authorities, agreeing to sponsor me, so I was allowed to go to his home. In the meantime, my fiancé had managed to get a passport and come to Jordan. After a month of suffering, trying to cross the border and living in the camp, we were finally reunited in Amman.

It was very tough being away from loved ones. Although I was now with my fiancé, my family was still in Damascus; this broke my heart. It was the first time I had left my beloved country. I was afraid of everything. Some people welcomed us; others were indifferent. I felt like a stranger in my land of exile.

For a month I stayed inside my relative's house in Amman. I was afraid to go out. I was frightened of being arrested for not having valid documentation. Fortunately, I eventually found someone able to help me avoid many of the normal bureaucratic obstacles and I regularized my migration status.

Within a few months, my fiancé and I have been able to marry and register with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). After which I also found a job with a humanitarian organization treating Syrians in at Akilah Hospital in Amman. Through the many people I met there, I heard about the courses offered by Jesuit Refugee Service in the city. So I went to their center and enrolled in the English course. The atmosphere is so good. My classmates in the school have helped me so much.

The situation in Syria is deteriorating with no end in sight to the conflict. I'm afraid I'll never be able to go back and have a life there. So I'm trying to find a way of going to the U.S. or Europe to study there as a refugee or on a scholarship.

Mohsen is a 26-year old Syrian refugee living in Amman, Jordan

*This name been changed for reasons of security

1Conditions in Zaatari camp have improved since Mohsen was there. Zaatari camp is home to 120,000 Syrian refugees and is Jordan’s fourth largest city, and the world’s fourth largest camp. 

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