Shafiq in his tent at Sindos camp.

Shafiq

Shafiq makes beautiful models of houses and buildings out of old cardboard boxes, juice cartons and other materials he can get his hands on. He has built replicas of his family's old house in Syria, the policeman's room at the Sindos camp and he is currently working on his latest creation, the dinghy boat in which he and his family braved the sea to reach Greece. It seems that this creative outlet is almost therapeutic for Shafiq, a way to work through his memories.

“When we came over on the boat, it was very crowded and the sea was rough,” he recalls. “I kept looking at my children and asking myself 'which one will I save?'”
The boats that Syrian refugees are brought across to Europe in are usually small. Most should carry a maximum of around 35 occupants but are generally packed with 50 to 60 people.

Shafiq and his wife have five children. Their youngest son is six months old and was born in a camp in Greece. He has known nothing but life in a tent. The night of his birth was dramatic. The family was among about 2,000 people who attempted to cross the border north into Macedonia but were caught by police.

“They took us back to Greece and rushed my wife straight to the hospital to give birth,” recalls Shafiq. She had hiked 30 kilometres through mountainous terrain at nine months pregnant.
They lived at Idomeni, a camp which was later demolished.
“It was very difficult,” says Shafiq. “The tents were small. We were tired and cold all the time. Rain leaked in and our blankets were always wet.”

He remembers a cat which lived at the camp and became ill one day.
“All the journalists wrote about this cat, they filmed it, they even called in a doctor to treat it,” he says. “They cared more about this animal than our kids.”

When Idomeni was demolished, Shafiq and his family moved to Sindos, where they remain without any information about if and when they will be allowed to move on. 

Their life is on hold and all they can do is wait and hope.

Their 12-year old daughter Shahed is teaching herself English, Spanish and German in the hopes of being better prepared if and when she and her family are granted asylum somewhere.

“My brother, my sister and some of my cousins live in Germany,” explains Shafiq. “It was my dream to start a new life there that made me leave Syria.” His greatest wish is that one day his children will graduate from a German university.

But for the immediate future, Shafiq's expectations are humble.
“I hope that in a few months we will have real walls around us instead of a tent,” he says.

Shafiq with one of his creations.