Refugee: Part Three - The Kingdom of Heaven

by William King

Chapter 3


"What you think's happened to Amar?" Samir asked Firas, but he knew that he didn't know, he just thought that maybe he might have an idea, because Samir couldn't understand why they had been separated.

"I don't know any more than you," Firas replied.

They were not alone in their cell, there was another kid, another refugee, he looked to be about the same age as Samir.

"Was your friend older?" The other boy spoke up, looking across at them a little uncertain.

"Yes," Firas turned to look at the boy, studying him. "He was the oldest of the three of us."

"Nearly eighteen," Samir added.

"They treat the men different to us," the boy continued.

"Different, what do you mean?" Firas wanted to know why they would treat Amar different just for being a bit older.

"He's not eighteen yet," Samir pointed out.

"Yeah, I know, you already said," the boy replied. "Doesn't matter, eighteen or nearly eighteen. They must have put him with the adults if he's not here."

"Why?" Firas asked.

"Coz they can refuse the adult refugees. They can try to send them back to Turkey. That's what they would like to do."

"How do you know all this?" Firas stared at the boy.

Samir felt an uneasy feeling in his stomach, like butterflies. What would he do if Amar got sent back.

"What happens to us?" Samir desperately wanted to know what would happen.

The boy smiled at Samir, he could see he was upset. "I don't know. But they can't treat us the same. They can't send children back." There was a silence that descended in the cell. Each one was reflecting on their situation, trying to make sense of things.

"I know," the boy broke the silence, "because they put my cousin on a boat back to Turkey."

"What's your name?" Firas asked. He wanted to somehow lighten the mood.

"Rifat," the boy replied.

"How old are you?" Firas continued.

"Nearly fourteen."

"You're the same age as me," Samir told him.

For the next hour they exchanged stories, telling Rifat how they had arrived in Greece. He in turn related his own history. Rifat had paid a passage in a large inflatable, he was with his cousin, the one who had been sent back to Turkey last time. His parents had stayed in Turkey, his father did not have enough money to pay for the whole family. He had been here two days, and had not seen his cousin since they both got picked up at the ferry.

There were some similarities in the last part of their stories, Rifat and his cousin had also bought tickets for the mainland and had been stopped when they were about to go on the ferry.

"How long do you think we will be here. Locked up like this?" Firas asked Rifat.

"My cousin told me that the first time it happened he was in a cell for a couple of days, but it's already that long. After he was in some sort of army camp place. Then after about two weeks they, my cousin and the other men, were taken and put on a ferry. They were told they were going to the mainland, but it was soon obvious they were heading in the opposite direction, back to Turkey."

Rifat put his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands.

"Have you been alone here all the time?" Firas asked sympathetically.

"Yes," he replied, without looking up.

"Maybe we'll get lucky," Samir told them. "We've done okay up to now."

Firas was not at all sure, and if they were lucky, what would that mean. Jordan told them it might take months to get refugee status and papers to be able to leave. What about Amar? What if he got sent back to Turkey like Rifat's cousin?

Amar hated being separated from Samir and Firas, but there was nothing he could do. He was locked in a cell with nine other men, one of whom he had found out, had a young cousin who was probably with the boys.

It was not comfortable in the cell, they slept on the floor, could not wash, and had had only two meals in three days. It was hot and smelly and totally mind numbing, with nothing at all to do.

On day four they were all released under escort, and were told they were being sent by ferry to a refugee came at Piraeus, on the mainland. Amar had no idea if this was true or not. Halil, whose young cousin had been picked up with him, told Amar that this was his second time in Greece, on the island.

He told Amar that they said exactly the same thing last time, that they were sending them to the mainland. It wasn't true, the ferry they were put on took them back to Turkey.

They were herded onto an old bus and immediately driven back to the port and ferry terminal. A large boat, very similar to the one that Amar was about to board when they had been stopped by the police, was loading vehicles.

He thought to himself that if it is the same boat, then maybe it was true, and this time everyone was being sent to the mainland. But everyone meant who? Would Samir and Firas, and Halil's cousin, also be put on the ferry?

It was getting dark, the ferry port was lit up with spot lights, and just like that night four days ago there was a chill in the air. Amar shivered, he had only the clothes he stood up in, his back pack had never been returned.

The officers had been discussing the refugees, and the captain in charged was happy that things had moved smoothly, that the adults they were holding were on the ferry.

"One more bunch out of here," he told the others.

"Yes Captain, but how long before we pick up some more?"

"Don't be such a pessimist George. We deal with that exactly the same. Now we have a routine plan laid out."

George wasn't at all convinced, he had been serving here at lot longer than the young captain, and he knew how quickly things changed and disintegrated. He just gave a nod and a wane smile.

"What do we do about the three boys we are holding?" Dimitri, the third police officer asked.

"I'm waiting to hear back," the Captain replied. "Until I hear, they stay where they are."

Dimitri was young, just nineteen, and he did not like the idea of keeping three innocent boys locked up, when probably they were fleeing their own country because it was impossible to live there in the middle of a war. Still, it was not his place to say anything, he did as he was told.

Once on the ferry Amar, Halil, and the other refugees were free to move around. One of the men had a paper that the police had given him, and they had said that they should all report at the port when they arrived. The paper was to be given to whoever official was at the port.

The loud noise of the ferry ramp lifting to seal the aft cargo deck cut through the background sounds of the port. It clanked into place with a metallic thud. The churning of the water, lost somewhere in the blackness below, fought with the thumping of the motors, as a smell of diesel wafted downwards across the boat.

They made their way up to the passenger deck above, climbing metal stairs, gripping the hand rails on either side. Amar could feel the vibrations that moved through the ferry as it shuddered with the force of the engines.

Soon there was a growing gap between the boat and the quay, then a change in sound and motion. They were on the rear open passenger deck, the port and town was lit up behind them. There was a perceivable jolt as the boat now lurched forward and engaged the passage out of the harbour, through the breakwaters.

It wasn't long before the two lights on the little towers at the end of the harbour walls were receding into the night behind them, and the town and island were becoming ever smaller.

Amar's thoughts turned to Samir and Firas, he had let them down, made a bad choice.

Halil was next to him, perhaps feeling similar emotions. "You see those stars," he pointed up to the right.

Amar followed his arm and finger, looking up into the blackness of the sky. A sky that was sprinkled with a thousand tiny white lights, some bright, some more distant. They twinkled in the cloudless sky and he could almost see the sky curving overhead like some giant canopy.

It took his mind away from those dismal thoughts that threatened to invade and overwhelm him. "I see them," he replied.

"That's Orion," Halil told him. "If we turn away, we're going to Greece."

"And..." Amar was about to say, if they didn't turn away, but Halil interrupted.

"God willing we will turn," he said.

It was Dimitri who brought their meal today. Of all the police they saw, Samir always thought he was the nicest, he was never off hand with them, and seemed to actually care. He was also one of the few who spoke English and would actually tell them what he knew.

"How's it going?" Dimitri asked as he unlocked their cell door and then one by one handed over their trays of food.

Samir smiled up at him from the rough wooden bench, not directly answering his question, he replied, "How much longer?"

It had been more than a week now, three days since Dimitri had told them that Amar, Rifat's cousin Halil, and the other men had been put on a ferry for the mainland. All three boys had questioned him intensely trying to determine if it was true or not. Had they really been sent to Piraeus?

Dimitri was sincere and honest, they didn't doubt what he told them, only if what he knew he could confirm, and of course, he could not. Much as Dimitri had formed a liking for these young refugees, who he would like to help, he couldn't mislead them. He could not give force hope, when he simply didn't know, and had no way of finding out for sure what had happened.

"Well, I think, but this is not 100%, but some time soon, a day or two maybe, you will get stamped refugee papers and put on a ferry for the mainland to go to the children's centre there."

"We will be free?" Firas asked.

"Ah, not exactly. You will not be able to leave the children's centre until you get full refugee status."

"How long will that take?" Rifat wanted to know, but Dimitri didn't have the answer.

"I don't know," he replied. "But at least you'll be out of here. On your way," he smiled.

There was some noise from outside and someone shouting his name. "I have to go," Dimitri said, turned and walked out, locking the cell shut behind him. "See you later," he said, before hurrying off, just as they heard his name shouted for the second time.

"He's a good guy," Firas said as he sat down to eat. Samir nodded and Rifat smiled.

"I only hope we're out of here soon, and that the others didn't get sent back to Turkey," Rifat said as he started eating.

Each of them sat in the hot grubby cell lost in their own thoughts about what would happen next.

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