A doctor who was part of the protest that Syrian refugees started two weeks ago in Athens to highlight their plight has died trying to cross the Greek–Albanian border, other Syrians at the protest said on Thursday.
They named him as Dr Ayman Ghazal, who was around 50 and originally from Aleppo. Friends said that after spending a ten days at the protest, he felt it was in his best interest to continue his journey to northern Europe and what he hoped would be safety.
According to the Deport Racism website, the doctor had tried to cross the Greek–Albanian border with a group of 30 people. They had taken a bus to Ioannina, in Epirus, and from there they reached Kakavia border crossing by taxi.
From there, they started to walk towards the border. After a four-hour trek, they came to a stream which they had to cross, up to their waists in water. Sometime later, Dr Ghazal had a seizure. When his friends phoned for an ambulance, they were told to return to Kakavia. The police also told them the same thing.
His comrades then set off for Kavakia, carrying Dr Ghazal on a sleeping bag. Outside Kakavia, they came across an ambulance, which transported him to the nearest hospital, where he died.
The others in the group were then arrested and detained in a police station from midnight to 6am. While in custody, they claim police swore at them, saying things like: “Go to Syntagma where they have blankets and free food, fuckers!”
The rest of the group are now back in Athens.
Abdulghafour Tammaa, one of the protesters on Syntagma, tweeted that Dr Ghazal had died in an Albanian forest “of the cold”, adding that his “dream of Europe” had perished with him.
— Abdulghafour.tammaa (@abdo_tammaa) December 4, 2014
According to a post on the Facebook page of the Syrian protesters, the dead man’s family are in Mersin, Turkey.
About 200 Syrian refugees, among them elderly, women and children, have been camped out on Syntagma Square in central Athens since November 19. The numbers at the protest swell during the day with other Syrians who have accommodation elsewhere. The Syrians want to be allowed continue their journeys to countries they say will guarantee them protection as war refugees. According to EU rules they must apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, but the Syrians say that Greece has no infrastructure to support them.
Dr Ghazal’s death highlights the perilous nature of the journey war refugees and other migrants take in their desperate attempts to reach safe countries. In November, eight migrants were killed when they were hit by trains in neighbouring Republic of Macedonia while another man, a 23-year-old Afghan, died when the board he was strapped onto beneath a train broke.
Last night, their 16th camped out on Syntagma square, Syrians and their supporters lit candles and held up photographs of Dr Ghazal in his memory.
This video, recorded by the MultiKulti website on the rainy night of December 3, shows the difficult conditions faced by the Syrians on Syntagma Square: