Syrian refugees find little to cheer in Greece

Since March 2011, 20,000 Syrians fleeing the war have entered Greece, which is ill-equipped to deal with the influx

in Athens, Thursday 25 July 2013 11.00 BST

Greek police patrol the border with Turkey

Greek police patrol the border with Turkey. The erection of a fence on the Greek/Turkish border has forced Syrian refugees to try to enter Greece by sea Photograph: Reuters

Like so many Syrians fleeing their war-shattered country, Mohamad Alkhalil did not think it could get any worse.

In the space of two years, the 26-year-old had survived a bullet in his foot, severe shrapnel wounds and a long stint in hospital in Turkey and pursuit by the security forces from whom he had defected to sign up with rebel fighters in the Free Syrian Army in June 2011.

“In that time, I have lost 46 members of my family, all in bombardments of our village near Hama,” he says, showing pictures on his iPhone of a succession of relatives, some old, some young, who have died since the start of the conflict.

“My brother Noor was killed on 20 January 2012,” he adds, pointing to man with slicked-back hair standing in front of a Cadillac. “My cousin,” he continues, pointing to a tousled-haired youth in a body bag “was killed a few months later. We were close and, after that, I decided my best option was to go to Europe.”

Alkhalil’s father, a long-time opponent of the Ba’athist regime, had lived in Brussels for years. As Alkhalil lay on a hospital bed in the Turkish city of Antalya, he plotted the journey that would take him to Europe and the embrace of relatives. But that, the Syrian now believes, is where his real problems began. Sneaking into Greece across the Evros river last summer the reception was anything but warm…

(Read the full report on the Guardian’s website: