Story Feature: Refugee Life Through A Boy’s Eyes

Meet Ali, an Iraqi boy who radiates kindness and intelligence, but whose life as a refugee is quickly turning from bad to worse.

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When our team arrived at the Šid refugee camp in Serbia, we met Ali and quickly became friends through broken English, a few words in Serbian, and a lot of pantomiming as he explained what was happening in the camp. Here’s the cliff-notes version: two days before we arrived, hundreds of people started to fill the camp as borders to the EU (primarily in Slovenia and Croatia) began refusing entry to large numbers of refugees, including nationalities that had previously been allowed through as asylum-seekers.

Try to picture it all: an overflowing refugee camp (built with large white tents in the shadow of an old butcher/meat factory) with people who are upset and confused — and in the midst of it all, this sweet boy (probably between the age of 14 or 15) who eagerly engages us with the little English and Serbian he knows.

After talking for a few minutes and watching yet another busload of refugees enter the camp, Ali noticed the camera slung over my shoulder and so I gestured for him to come closer. I put the strap around his neck, gave him a 2-minute photography lesson, and then watched as he became my “photography assistant” for the day. The following photos are what he took while we walked around the camp.

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After our photography session, he introduced me to his family and then brought me to their corner of the refugee tent where I sat with his fellow travelers from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. That evening my team and I left for another camp, but we came back the next day to see Ali and his family before we left the area. Even after only one day apart it was like reuniting with a long-lost friend when we all saw one another again. We promised to stay in contact.

Fast forward five days – Ali and I have been in touch sporadically. On Tuesday I get a message from him that reads, “We are now in Hungary, and wait until we go to Germany. We were on the road. A lot of torment.”

I ask him about this and he explained that at night police came into the camp, screaming at people to get up. He wrote telling that they beat some young people and then took everyone on buses. Ali and his family were on the bus for three hours before arriving in an army/military zone in Hungary, where they are now.

Friends, please pray immediately for Ali and his family. There is already too much sadness in this boy’s eyes for someone his age. Pray that his days of sorrow end soon, for him and for the thousands of others like him. #TSCresponse

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