Once Fatima crossed the border, she says the smuggler took her on a six-hour bus ride to Izmir, a city on the country’s coastline. There, in the middle of February, she piled into a small boat with dozens of other Syrian refugees headed for Greece.
The risks of the Mediterranean crossing are well-documented: Cheaply made life vests filled with nylon and paper offer a false sense of protection, while rough seas, freezing temperatures, and overloaded vessels mean that thousands have already lost their lives
making this journey. Fatima also remembers a malicious “aircraft was flying over the boats so close, and we were almost flipping over.” (I heard similar stories
in other Greek refugee camps I visited, of armed assailants intercepting, even disabling refugee boats, and sometimes towing them back to Turkish waters.)
Soaking wet, chilled to the bone, and terrified for her life, Fatima eventually spotted help in the form of a “big Greek ship that came and saved us.”