Refugee: Part Three - The Kingdom of Heaven

by William King

Chapter 2

Going Nowhere.

Firas' father once told him that if you want something hard enough, you can make it happen. But, he added, be careful what it is you wish for, because it may not be how you imagined.

The lift in the van had got them into a large coastal town. Gennadi it said on the panel. There was nobody around, the streets were deserted, most probably people were inside having lunch or taking a siesta.

The sun was reaching it's zenith. It was hot.

"What now?" Firas looked at Amar.

"I guess we go towards the beach. Find a shady place and eat what's left. Then when things open later, maybe there will be a bus to the ferry port."

"Maybe it's not too far." Firas replied.

"Yeah, I don't know."

Amar walked on along the neat pavement, past the closed shops and businesses. Finding the beach was easy, just follow the salt in the air. Actually it was only a few hundred metres further on. The road led straight onto a large beach, stretching off into the distance.

There were a couple of restaurants and some sun loungers set out on the beach. Here for the first time were a few people. They looked like they were on holiday. Amar led them left, back through some trees and a little further on to where the road which followed the beach turned back towards the town.

They sat down beneath the dappled sunlight caste through the branches overhead. It was calm, peaceful. They put their backpacks down and proceeded to eat the last of what they had brought with them from the yacht. They would need to find out about getting to the port, but for now they just stretched out and relaxed. Nobody said much, each of them were lost in their own thoughts.

Sometime later Amar decided they should get going and they walked back along the road the way they had come. He stopped at the restaurant they had seen earlier, and leaving the others to wait outside, went in to ask if there was a bus for the ferry port.

A young waiter told him there was, and he even went behind the bar counter to find the timetable.

They had half an hour to wait. The bus was at 15:45 for Rhodes town. The waiter told Amar that the ferry port was about ten minutes from the bus station and the journey took about one hour twenty.

Firas wondered if they shouldn't have done as Jordan had told them, find the police and declare themselves as refugees. Things had, however, gone pretty well. The bus journey cost just over twenty euros for the three of them, and now they had arrived in the main town on the island and were just a short walk to the ferry.

It was Samir who spotted the office selling ferry tickets and they all three went inside to see if they could get tickets for the mainland and Thessalonica in the North. The guy behind the counter was helpful, but it was soon obvious that Thessalonica was a very long voyage and much too expensive.

There were no other people in the office so he didn't seem too put off by all their questions about prices, times and so on. At one point though, when he had suggested they take the ferry tonight for Piraeus, he excused himself to go into the back office to make a phone call, leaving them to decide.

It would take nearly all the money they had left, but they all thought that there was no other choice. The man had said that Piraeus was the port for Athens, a beautiful city he had added. The boys were not that interested in what the city was like, they weren't tourists, but they played along.

Firas could not help thinking that this man was being just a bit too nice and helpful. As they were discussing what to do between themselves, he told Amar what he thought. Amar dismissed it, saying that he shouldn't be so suspicious all the time.

They ended up buying three tickets for the ferry leaving tonight for Piraeus. No way could they pay for a cabin, it would just be a seat to sleep in on the voyage. The good news though, was that in around twenty fours hours they would be on the mainland.

"We've got four or five hours to kill before the ferry." Firas stated.

"Can we get something to eat?" Samir asked. For a little guy he sure could eat a lot, but his tone was more hopeful, than demanding.

Amar examined the money he kept in his little black leather purse. "Let's get some bread, cheese and maybe some biscuits. We don't have much money, about forty euros, that's all."

"Okay, we need to be really careful then. I mean, just buy what's cheap." Firas looked over at Samir, then back to Amar.

Each of them seemed to realise at the same moment, that they were going to get to the mainland, but then what. With no money, what would they do?

"God willing, it will be okay," Amar had no answers, but he felt he was the one in charge. He had a heavy responsibility to carry, and even if he had no idea what would happen, he was going to keep things together. That was his job!

By 10PM it was dark as they made their way towards the ferry. There were a few other foot passengers and some trucks and cars, but it did not look very busy. There were no controls, just a man in a booth at the gate that looked at their tickets and waved them through, indicating the boat.

Samir was looking towards the dock and the boat which was lit up with lights from the port holes and two large spot lights high up on each side of the ramp. Vehicles were bouncing across, making a loud clanking noise as they disappeared inside the cargo deck.

It had turned chilly when the sun went down, but they had managed to buy some bread and cheese so their stomachs were full, and soon they would be on board. They followed the small group in front of them up to the ramp, where everybody stopped.

"I've never been on a ship," Samir glanced at Amar.

"Me neither," Firas added. "That is not counting the yacht," he chuckled.

"Well it will be a first for all of us," Amar replied.

"What is he doing?" Firas was peering through the group in front of them trying to see why they were waiting.

"He's checking tickets, I think," Amar told him.

And just after he'd spoken the group of people in front were waved through. Now it was their turn. Amar smiled as he handed over their tickets, which the man scanned. Then he was on his walkie-talkie speaking, and they waited. Samir was shifting around impatient to get aboard. He must have inadvertently moved to far forward, because the man's free arm came up in front of his chest to stop him moving past.

Now there were other people behind them, but not much traffic going past. It looked like all but one late arriving van were loaded. Amar started to feel nervous, he asked himself what was going on, but he said nothing.

Firas saw it first, racing across the large dark expanse of the dock area was a jeep with flashing blue light. He nudged Amar, who turned to look in the direction Firas had nodded. Suddenly apprehension overcame him, the desire to run coursed through his veins as the adrenaline mounted with the fear.

The tension was now palpable between all three, but there really was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The jeep pulled up at the ramp and two uniformed men stepped out, and came over to join the man at the ramp. He had put down his walkie-talkie and was addressing the men in uniform.

The next thing that happened, was that the older looking of the two uniformed men took hold of Amar, the second was now standing very close behind Firas and Samir.

Turning to Amar the man asked in broken English, "Passport?"

Amar just stared, he said nothing.

"Papers?" The man was getting impatient. Amar felt his grip tighten on his arm.

"You come with us!" He ordered.

Nothing more was said as they were led to the back seat of the jeep, and pushed in. Something was shouted to the man checking tickets at the ramp, then the jeep pulled away. Samir glanced back at the ship, seeing the last of the people going on board, and realising it wasn't for them.

Amar started to think he had made the wrong decision to get the ferry. Events played through his head. Everything had seemed to be working out perfectly. Until now.

The wind chilled them in the open jeep as it crossed the tarmac, exited back through the gate, and continued along night time streets lit by the yellow glow of fluorescent street lamps.

It was a short journey until they slowed up and pulled into a yard which was the car park to a fairly large building. There were three cars parked up, one of which was white with blue lights and the blue stripe, badge and word, police.

They were taken inside the building and told to sit on a long wooden bench. There backpacks were brought through after them, but disappeared with a police officer into an office further along the corridor.

Samir reached his hand out to touch Amar, who was sitting next to him. He did this secretly, so that his touch was hidden from view, although no one was paying them much attention.

"What happened?" Firas asked leaning forward to talk to Amar around Samir who was sitting in between the two of them.

"I think it was the guy in the ticket office," Amar replied.

"Why would he do that? We paid for those tickets." Firas was annoyed.

"Yeah, I know. It's stupid, makes no sense. I'm sorry." Amar squeezed Samir's hand, as if to reinforce his apology.

"It's not your fault," Firas assured him.

They stopped speaking as one of the policemen from before came down the corridor. He stopped and pointed at Amar, "You, come," he told him.

The other two boys watched as Amar walked off down the corridor and disappeared through the door on the left. They sat in silence after he had gone.

Inside the room a man in uniform sat at an old wooden desk, there was a small window off to one side, just behind him, with what looked like a metal grill on the outside. The older man from the jeep was standing to the side of the desk, in front of a large grey metal filing cabinet. He was smoking a cigarette and his gaze followed Amar across the room.

"Sit," the officer behind the desk indicated to Amar the chair in front of him. Amar moved around and sat down.

"Which country are you from?" the officer asked, speaking in English.

"Syria," Amar replied.

"How did you get here?"

"By boat."

"What type of boat?"

"An inflatable."

"How many of you were on this boat?"

"Just us three."

"Small or big?"


"Where did you come from?"


"Yes, but which town?"

"There was no town, just a beach, it was at night."

"You didn't do all this alone?"

"No, we were with a group of people and a large boat."

The officer nodded for him to continue.

Amar was making this up as he went along. He had no time to think about what either Firas or Samir might say, he just remembered Jordan telling them to be vague, telling them to say they had been set adrift. And that is exactly what Amar told the officer.

He wanted to know the name of the closest town, but Amar said he didn't know. He told him they had been picked up and taken on a long ride at night time, ending on the beach. He really couldn't tell if the officer believed him.

"How old are you?" Was the next question.

"Seventeen," Amar replied.

"Date of birth?"

"Eight August, 1998."

The officer was now writing information on a form in front of him. He went on to demand his full name, his town of birth, and his last known address. He wanted to know the names of the people who had ferried them across from Turkey, how long the voyage had taken, if the sea was calm or rough, when exactly was this.

The questions didn't stop, they just kept coming until Amar was finding it difficult to think, and hard to keep track of what he had said.

"I think you are over eighteen," the officer told him, at the end of the questioning. "We will check your story, and if it appears to be true you will be treated as a simple refugee."

Amar's brain was a bit like fudge by this time, but he thought at least that meant he would get registered as an asylum seeker, he would get his papers to stay, and if he did, so would the others. But why did he think he was over eighteen, he wasn't, he'd given his date of birth.

Amar was led out of the room and taken along the corridor away from where Samir and Firas were still sitting on the bench. He looked back towards them and he saw that they had seen him, but he was led away, and taken to be locked in a cell.

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