Syrian mother and daughters join other refugees in Dublin
‘Vast majority of Irish people are open-minded,’ says iman at welcoming event
Fatima al-Hariri (2nd from left) with her daughters Tagwa, Sarra and Maisa. The family fled war-torn Syria and are living in Mosney, leaving other family members still in Turkey. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The Syrian refugees were 90 minutes late to meet their hosts at the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre.
A coach due to take 60 of them from the Mosney Direct Provision centre to a welcoming meeting in Blanchardstown never turned up, leaving them stranded in the cold. Another bus was pressed into use, but only brought half of them and could not take them back because it was needed for the school run.
Such inconveniences are mere trifles in comparison with being stranded on an overcrowded raft in the darkness, knowing any moment that a wave could overturn their tiny vessel .
Fatima al-Hariri and her daughters Tagwa (25), Maisa (19) and Sarra (17) fled their home city of Daara in southern Syria two years ago. Ms Hariri’s husband, a son and a daughter are still in Turkey. They could not all leave together.
Before the war they were a middle-class family; both parents were teachers. The three sisters speak excellent English, all the better for not having attended school in any meaningful way for five years.
First stop was Turkey, a country where they were quickly disabused of the notion that they could stay . Then they travelled by sea to Greece. The sea journey to Lesbos took only three hours, but “every second was like a year”, Maisa recalled. At every stage they feared they would drown.
They spent nine months in Greece before a call that they had been accepted to Ireland. They arrived by plane on December 16th. “From the moment the airplane left from Greece, I was crying with happiness,” said Saara.
The mosque, in an industrial estate off the Coolmine Road, was full for Friday prayers. The strict segregation between men and women was relaxed for the arrival of the refugees. Many took selfies and filmed the welcoming ceremony.
Sheikh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, the imam of the local mosque, reminded the Muslim congregation, overwhelming of recent arrivals to the country, that they were economic migrants who made a choice to come to Ireland. The Syrian refugees did not have such a choice and had to flee their homeland.
Sheikh Abdullah Mohammad spoke of the hardships endured by refugees living in tents in Turkey and Greece with extremes of heat and cold, a lack of privacy and a lack of hope. Of all the European countries, Ireland has been the most hospitable, he said, but misinformation abounded.
The refugees are among 300 based in Mosney waiting for reallocation around the country. At the end of the welcoming ceremony, Sheikh Al-Qadri asked for volunteers to drive their guests back to Mosney. A forest of hands went up and the refugees returned to their temporary home.