Mohammad can tell if the coronavirus and all its derivatives look like a war or not, as some have suggested. He has lived one in Syria, his country, but for three and a half years he has resided in Spain with subsidiary protection. A little over a year ago, he was able to reunite his wife and three young children in Seville. The older one appears in the video call, puts on the headphones to listen and speaks very good Spanish. Rawat is in charge of translating Mohammad: “We lived there in terror and here we can at least go out the window or go shopping. We were locked up, like here, but there were days that we spent them under the bed. There were shots and ‘ a lot of ‘weapon’.
Silvia Pérez completes the telematic grid. She is a technician of the international protection program in Accem, an NGO that works to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable refugees and migrants or groups. Mohammad explains that, like any family, they do their homework with their three, five and six-year-old children, despite the difficulties in printing the activities. Silvia comments that the children are having a “wonderful integration” in their new city, although she is pulling Mohammad’s ears a little to make him try harder to learn Spanish.
He is a cook and, like many others, he has spun jobs in Arab restaurants for compatriots, so the language has not been an obstacle for the income, aside from state aid, to reach the family. “Now I only think about finding a job again,” says Mohammad. For Silvia, this “desire” to find a job when they see that the aid is ending makes “sometimes the language is left aside”, which is “very important” to “open up the market and look for other things”. “You have to live now to find work tomorrow,” Silvia sentenced during the meeting with four. Rawad, a former Accem user, nods.
“I’d rather die here”
Mohammad is in the second phase of the protection program, that of autonomy. When he left Syria on a ship in 2013, when the war hit hardest, he left behind his pregnant wife with his third child, whom he has met in Seville years later. The journey, although it had another destination, had taken him to the Port of Gijón. He, like other crew members, insisted on staying because life in his country was impossible and he was going to be forced to join the Army and die in the war. “I’d rather die here,” remember what he said.
Asylum application through, Accem took care of him and other colleagues. Several days in a hotel in A Coruña, some time working in Cáceres and the rest in Seville, where since February 2019 he lives with his family in an apartment that borders the Los Pajaritos neighborhood. Mohammad is very fond of the Spanish people and only thinks that his children have a future. His wife could return to Syria if he cannot find a job, because the aid does not last forever.
‘We’re still close’
Mohammad comments that around him he sees families who have almost nothing to eat and does not have all of them with him, regretting that international aid programs are not comprehensive enough. Silvia, by allusions, insists on the importance of the language to look for work beyond the restaurant of a compatriot. For the organization, Facing the COVID-19 pandemic is posing a real challenge, which is why its workers and their work are also making it known in the campaign ‘We’re still close’.
“Right now we cannot stop, because we have to be there. There are many families who have been left with nothing overnight. It is a quite serious social crisis and from here we offer everything from basic goods to psychological or work interventions, monitoring online of Spanish classes, etc. “, explains Silvia, who enjoys communication by being able to see the children and by being able to chat to see how Mohammad and his wife continue. “It gets weird, but at least we see each other’s faces,” he says.
Mohammad’s children, like many others, demonstrate their great adaptation to changes, from the harshness of a war to the strange experience of containing the vitality of childhood in a few square meters. Their parents trust that they have a clean future while they do bobbin lace to dose the aid that, without work, is not an easy task either.