Marwane, 49, risked his life fleeing Syria. He arrived in Belgium hoping his wife and two sons would be able to join him soon after. Caritas accompanied him throughout the family reunification process and assists him today in order to ease his transition to an independent life in Belgium.
His face lights up just thinking about it. Marwane will never forget the day his family arrived at Zaventem airport. “I didn’t know where I was anymore. Everything around me seemed to disappear,” he beamed.
My son was soon going to be old enough to be forced to serve in the army. The thought of that was unbearable.
Marwane fled Aleppo for Turkey in 2015. He was there for 6 months. In February 2016, he crossed the Mediterranean on a makeshift boat and made it to Greece. After 15 days, he arrived in Belgium. “In the end, I had no money left at all, but I was lucky to meet some very welcoming people. When I told them where I was from, several were eager to help me. The contrast with the war and the ‘every man for himself’ mentality fostered by years of violence was enormous.”
Due to his psychological state from trauma he had experienced, Marwane was received at Caritas housing in Anvers. However, his heart was still in Syria. “I missed my family so much…The family reunification process took over a year, and I often thought about returning to Syria to see them again. My son was soon going to be old enough to be forced to serve in the army…The thought of that was unbearable.”
An attentive listener
“I cried a lot. I was told to be patient, but how could I be patient when those I loved were in a warzone? Jasmijn, my Caritas coach, helped me a lot.” Jasmijn would visit Marwane regularly to guide him through the family reunification process, to help him with his everyday needs, and to lend him a listening ear.
As of today, Marwane’s family has been living in Belgium for almost 4 months. “We’re all taking language classes. My oldest son wants to study medicine next year,” Marwane remarks, his eyes full of hope. Their future will be more promising than the horrible circumstances they have left behind. However, integrating into a new country remains a challenge — a challenge they can now take on together.