“Milene, I’m in trouble. I need help so urgently, I don’t know what to do anymore. Is suicide the answer? It’s chaos in my head. I don’t know what will happen”
“Ok, please try to relax. Tell me what is going on. I will listen, I am here for you. Tell me what happened”
“They refused my asylum request and send me a letter. I have 30 days to leave. They will take my bankcard and identification papers. I have nowhere to go. They think Turkey is safe enough for me. My wife is 1,5 months pregnant. My wife has war injuries and gets medicine for them but can’t take them now due to the pregnancy. My child almost drowned today. No one listens to me, I don’t know what to do anymore. When will this end? If I kill myself will they help my wife and child?”
“Can you send me the refusal letter so I can translate and see what is written in it? Don’t do anything to yourself. Your wife needs you and your child needs you. Don’t give up. There are so many people who love you and welcome you, who want to have you here in a house having a good life. And you know? Those people will not give up on you!”
“Thank you Milene, thank you for listening, for telling me you care about us. I will send you the letter. I am so afraid. If I go back to Turkey they will catch me and will take me back to Syria. But I cannot go back to Syria, I’m wanted there, they will kill me. No one takes me serious, no one believes our words, we are the weak link here.”
“I do take you serious and I do believe you. And if I do I know many people will do as well. You are loved, you are a wonderful person and you have a loving family. Do never let anyone tell you you are a weak link, that you are not beautiful and that you are not worth it. You are! Let me look at the letter they send you.”
“Even I do not know the reason of refusal. They did not tell me anything. I’m exhausted, depressed and hopeless… I have no hope anymore. I do not know what will happen. How can I let my children grow up like this?”
“I am listening, I am here for you whenever you need me. If you think of anything bad, anything like suicide please call me. Alright? Can you promise me that?”
“Yes, thank you Milene. I don’t know what to say to you. I am grateful for you. Thank you for listening and taking me serious.”
The refusal letter says:
You are expelled from the Hellenic Republic the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum. The decision to refuse an application for international protection for refugees, in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Or to obtain subsidiary protection status, it is permanently denied because the statutory conditions have been deemed not fulfilled.
We also inform you that according to the law, you are obligated, within thirty (30) days from the date of notification of this decision from the hospitality structure in which you live, as well as after the above deadline expires, the financial assistance granted to you under the material conditions for reception in the form of cash and in kind shall be terminated.
By the Administrative Court of First Instance, within a period of thirty (30) days starting from the day following the notification of the attached decision, the card in your possession has been canceled electronically.
We all need a friend who listens, who cares
I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a lawyer. I’m just a photographer and I remind the people I talk to often that I can’t help them deal with their thoughts, I can’t help with their asylum requests and I can’t help them with medical assistance. What I can do is listen, being a friend, someone they can talk to when they are worried. What I can do is raise money and send it to them so they can at least have a nice meal once in a while.
And it is tough I can tell you. It sometimes feels like I’m carrying the world on my shoulders. I often am questioning what I’m doing; is it enough? Am I even helping? Or am I making things worse? What is it actually that I’m doing? Nothing much because they need real help. They need lawyers who are on their side. They need psychologist who can do more than telling them how wonderful and beautiful they are.
But, when I feel sad or down, when I go through something bad, the thing that helps me the most is my friends around me. Friends who listen, who tell me I’m loved, who make me feel I don’t go through it alone. So, if that’s what I’m here for in this world, to be a friend to those in need, to be a listener to those who want to tell their story, to be a comforter whispering kind words to those who need to hear it, I will.