I was 17 and in my final year of high school, getting ready for my final exams… I am from a village called Basuta and I was supposed to go take my exams in Aleppo. Because of the war and the bad situation of this city there was no chance to go there. I stayed home and I kept studying hoping that I could take the exams the following year; unfortunately the situation was worse. My parents realised that Syria would not get back to normal soon, therefore they decided to send me away. One of the reasons was the fact that I don’t have an army document as I didn’t undertake the military service. I could have been accused of hiding my military documents from the governmental army, either because I would try to avoid the battle or because I would be in the rebel army.

I left Syria illegally and I initially went to Izmir, Turkey. I stayed there for one month and fifteen days. After that I tried to travel to Greece. First time I was stopped on the sea by the Greek police and sent back to Turkey, having to sleep outside, in the mountains. The second time the agent that I and other 33 people paid for the trip joined us, too. When we were approaching the Greek police, this person had a knife and he made a whole in the inflatable boat, so the coast guard would save us and take us to the shore. The police took us to a place that was supposed to be a refugee camp but it was more like a prison, being retained there for 14 days. Eventually they send us to Athens. I was lucky that I knew some family friends there and I could live with them.

The first day after I arrived in Athens I was stopped by the local police and arrested just because I was Syrian; they wanted to check if the documents I had with me are genuine (a letter supplied from the refugee camp that certifies my refugee status). I had to wait for 7 hours until a person actually checked my papers and conclude that they are not fake. After a while I and my friends found an agent in Athens who helped us get on a trip to Italy. We took a lorry but the police found us and they put us in prison for 5 days. Afterwards they sent us back to Athens. After two weeks I tried again. This time the lorry was very small and we were supposed to hide in very tight cardboard boxes.

I had to spend around one hour in a box while crossing the border. I spent 24 hours in the lorry because it was travelling on a ferry. When we reached Italy we had to hide in those boxes again, just to be sure we won’t be found at the checkpoint. After I arrived in Italy I tried to get in touch with two of my friends who travelled the same way. I called the agent from Greece to ask about them. He told me that they passed away in the cardboard boxes.

The time spent in Italy was horrible. People were asking for 100 Euros per night just to let me sleep in their house. But I was finally free. Police didn’t know anything about me and after a while I went to France. I slept in Dunkirk for two nights in a forest close to the town. On 5th of December 2014 I jumped in a fridge in the back of a lorry. I crossed the Channel and I eventually arrived in Britain

A. A.