A story about World Refugee Day_From *ESTIA to **HELIOS and then to Germany, a hurdles race for Sanaa from Syria

Sanaa from Syria lives in Greece along with her two sons and her mother for the last couple of years. At the beginning, her husband was also with them, but he left for Germany to begin a new life there for himself and his family. However, they still live apart.

The 40-year-old Sanaa, her mother, the 11-year-old Hussein, and the 4-year-old Mohammed arrived to Athens from Lesvos and since then, they live in a house rented by SolidarityNow as part of the ESTIA program, while all family members are now recognized refugees. Today, they are among many other families of recognized refugees who must leave their apartment rented by SolidarityNow in the framework of the *ESTIA program. This four-member family has to find housing, in a market that, prefers to turn apartments into short-lived homes (airbnb), do not rent to foreigners (refugees and migrants) and, at the same time, requires advance payment of the amount of the guarantee.

Until now, in SolidarityNow 20 people have left their apartments in Athens and Thessaloniki.

The lovely Sanaa lived “a beautiful life in Syria“, as she says, smiling shyly; she looks as if she is afraid of smiling. Their house was bombed, her father remains missing, “we took what was saved and left“. Now, she is happy and safe, she is glad that her children are going to school and she is anxiously waiting for the moment when everyone will arrive in Germany together, “I miss seeing my husband“. Until they manage to leave, however, they first must face the exit from the *ESTIA program. Sanaa is looking to find a new home for her family with the little money she has saved. With their savings they must pay in advance all the expenses and that will enable them to join the **HELIOS program and the 6-month rent subsidy.

Through her stories we listen to many unpleasant moments she experienced while looking for a house. The rents are expensive, the owners are cautious, the questions that need to be answered every time, are tough. Nevertheless, Sanaa is trying, and is empowered by the organization’s social worker, Sofia Theodosiou. In such social conditions, Sanaa, like so many other people, must find the strength to adjust and gradually become autonomous. She will make it. Her motive is time – as it is for everyone, until they can leave for Germany.

Sanaa shared her story and agony speaking through a protective mask. We were all wearing masks, but we managed to communicate, and in the end, we almost hugged. However, for everyone’s protection, we stayed to look each other in the eyes. We wish every success to Sanaa and we promise that we will continue to be by her side until she takes the next step towards her independence and dreams.


* ESTIA, the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation programme, is implemented by UNHCR and funded by the Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund of the European Union.

**HELIOS program is implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) financed by the Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME).