On a Thursday night in Hanover, Germany, against all the odds and after a journey that saw them cross four borders and spend a year stranded in Greece, the family was finally reunited. Their emotional reunion is the culmination of a seemingly impossible journey that they started together as a family in Syria in the summer of 2014.
Alan Mohamed and his sister Gyan, both wheelchair bound lived in Al-Hakasah with their parents and three siblings. When the armed group Daesh began closing in on the town, the family had no choice but to flee.
After three failed attempts at crossing the border into Turkey, each time being shot at by police, the family eventually managed to reach Iraq. They stayed there for a year and a half before the approach of Daesh again forced them to escape. This time their father carried on with one of his daughters, and was able to reach Germany.
The rest of the family once again attempted to travel to Turkey, this time via mountainous terrain, completely impassable by a wheelchair user. Alan and Gyan, who both suffer from muscular dystrophy since birth, were strapped onto either side of a horse led by their younger sister. Their heavy wheelchairs were pushed up the unpaved and steep paths by their mother and brother.
On reaching Turkey, the family paid $750 each to a smuggler for passage to Greece with 60 other people crammed aboard a tiny, inflatable vessel. The wheelchairs had to left behind to allow for more people to travel.
A short time into the perilous crossing, the boat’s engine gave out and they were left adrift in Turkish waters for around four hours. They eventually reached the Greek waters after some passengers succeeded in restarting the engine. They were rescued by Greek coast guard and transferred to the island of Chios where the siblings were given wheelchairs.
Their arrival on the island, came just days before the EU-Turkey deal came into effect, leaving them with scant hope of a reunion as this meant that the borders of other European countries were now closed.
The family were taken to Ritsona refugee camp by bus after a ferry trip to the mainland. Following their first interview with the Greek Asylum Office, at the end of September 2016, the family were moved to a hotel in Khorithos with the support of the UN High Commission for Refugees.
On a visit to the asylum office in March 2017, they were told to go home and pack their bags for a flight to Munich and within days they were reunited with their father and sister at a centre for refugees outside Hanover.
Alan and Gyan have settled into their new life in Germany, very aware of the challenges of living in a different country knowing how blessed they are.