Bahiri* is “familiar” to METAdrasi’s team of escorting missions. In less than a year he has been escorted a total of seven times, both from precarious conditions and from safe zones, while waiting for his relocation to a European country to finally happen. One more child in limbo, due to the complicated bureaucratic procedures and to the delayed response from the member countries which are involved in the relocation scheme.
Stelios, a member of METAdrasi’s coordinating team that escorted Bahiri the seventh time, describes his experience:
“I met Bahiri in an Athenian police station, outside the holding cells. A barely 16-year-old boy, who has been in Greece, alone, for three years. Even though he had spent the night in a cell with 10-15 adult detainees, he was calm and collected. I asked him if he had slept and eaten. He answered positively, told me he was all right and had come to the police station by his own choice, in the hope of ending up in a hosting facility while waiting to be relocated to another European country.
I escorted Bahiri to the Facility in Elefsina. In the short time we spent together, we communicated openly and honestly. His command of Greek was impressive, given he had been in our country only three years!
As we neared the Facility, he was awe-struck by the sight of the large freighters which are anchored in Elefsina. He told me he had experience of large ships. I looked at him in surprise. “From where we stand, those ships look really large,” he said, “but if one is to understand just how large they are, one has to go a lot closer.”
In order to satisfy my curiosity, he described his first moments on entering Greece. “There were 50 of us in a dinghy. The only thing we knew was that there was an island before us which we had to reach. At some point a vessel bearing the Turkish flag approached us from behind. A little later, another boat bearing the Greek flag. They were both really large. But only when they came close to us did I realise just how large. From both ships people were shouting at us and I remember paddling with my hands, trying desperately to reach the island I could see in front of us. I could not turn back. Even though I was tiny beside those boats. I had to succeed.”
This description left me speechless. We were nearing our destination and before saying goodbye I told him how important it was for him to remain in this facility until he could leave on the scheduled flight for the country which was to receive him. He nodded, looking pleased, and followed the Facility staff. He knew I could never comprehend how small he had felt between the coastguard vessels – his fear and anxiety. But he was happy that I had tried.”
*The name of the boy has been changed in order to protect his privacy.