She lived the Nakba decades later… and advises no one to migrate

Ramallah – alquds.com – Ahmed Daraghmeh

Lena,* a Palestinian refugee, advises anyone considering crossing the Mediterranean as an illegal migrant against setting out on the journey. She does not hesitate to express her regret for embarking on the hazardous voyage, after living through moments of death in all its horrific details and suffering ordeals similar to the pains experienced by Palestinian refugees following the Nakba, as she made her way to Europe in search of a better life, which is still elusive two years after her arrival.

Twenty year old Lena’s life is just one more chapter in the long novel of Palestinian exile and alienation. Her family were forced out of Palestine in 1948 and driven to Lebanon, where they were again forced to depart, fleeing the civil war. Lena has now been settled in a building beside her twin sister in a refugee camp in Roskelda in Denmark, after leaving her sister and mother behind in Algeria.

Her father had been working in the Palestinian embassy in Algeria for almost four years when the Algerian authorities asked him to leave the country. He returned to Palestine, where his attempts to reunify the family in Gaza met with failure.

Lena was unable to find any work in Algeria, which suffers from high unemployment, and so she decided to migrate. In 2014, she headed to Libya, where she spent 25 days in a house with 200 other refugees, among them elderly people and children with faces full of tears. Everyone was afraid to leave the house as the smugglers had told them they ran the risk of being arrested by the Libyan police.

After 25 demoralising days, as described by Lena, the smugglers removed them from the house without any of their bags, due to the large number of migrants and the small size of the boat. Fifteen minutes after the launch of this “boat of death,” the engine failed, and they spent six hours adrift on the open sea, unable to return to the coast for fear of arrest.

Lena says that she and the other passengers had lost all hope, before the sound of another boat brought them back to life. It processed to tow them across the sea for twelve hours, and they were then transferred to a larger ship which conveyed them across the Mediterranean. It was as five days before Lena arrived at a refugee camp in the Danish capital. Her time there was very difficult, and ended with the camp’s closure, after which she was relocated to the camp in Roskelda.

Despite her successful crossing and safe arrival on terra firma, unlike the thousands of other refugees who have drowned in the sea or were returned to their countries, Lena describes her experience as “cruel and degrading,” and is certain that she would not embark on the crossing if she could go back and face the decision again.

Lena adds that even after her settlement in Denmark, “Europe is not a path strewn with roses, and adaptation to life there is not easy.”

After having experienced the long pain of asylum and the ravages of migration and exile, Lena was given a chance to train as a journalist with a paper belonging to the Red Cross. She now writes stories about refugees and their bitter experiences, but says, “I have accomplished nothing in the last two years, and I feel as though I have lost my future. I wanted to study veterinary medicine.”

She also adds, “The training has helped improve my English, and it fills up my time. I get to know a lot of the refugees and their tragic stories.”

For now, Lena works three days a week in a Red Cross headquarters, about an hour and a half’s journey from the camp in which she lives.

*A pseudonym


Translated by Conor Fagan 

View the original article here.

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