“We were just looking for security”: A Palestinian Syrian’s story

Friday 24 January 2014

Adnan* lives with his wife and three children in Greater Cairo. He has two daughters, aged ten and eight, and a two-year old son. His family is Palestinian Syrian, and they face many difficulties as doubly-displaced refugees. The family has so far been unable to get residency in Egypt, which makes it difficult to access essential services such as healthcare. Adnan would like to buy beds for his children, as they currently sleep on thin mattresses, and covers to keep them warm.

Adnan*’s story in his own words:

My father is Palestinian, but I was born in Syria. Before we left I was in the clothing business, doing fitting and sewing. My wife didn’t have a job. We lived in the Yarmouk camp. Things were ok, because I had a job. When the Yarmouk problems started, everything just collapsed. When the fighting began at the camp, we fled to Egypt the next day. My close family – my mother and father – still live near to Yarmouk, but my aunt and my cousins are all in the camp itself. My brother and my nephews died in Yarmouk.

Adnan*’s three children in their home in Greater Cairo. Adnan* has been told he needs to register his children at a private school to gain residency, however he cannot afford the school fees.

We felt that Egypt was the safest place to come. We were just looking for security. I don’t feel safe now that we’re here, because of the residency problems. Our children can play in the garden outside, and that’s it. A lot of Palestinian Syrians live in this area, for example a friend who was my neighbour in Syria lives nearby. My cousin, and other friends, all live in this area. It is very hard to access services here, because of the residency problems. We have no health or schooling. Whenever we need something, people always ask for our residency papers so we can’t get anything.

The winter was very hard, because no sun comes into the house and it was very cold. We didn’t have anything to keep us warm except this heater. We need beds for the children, and covers. They only sleep on a thin mattress. We need the necessities, but I can’t buy them. I can’t buy toys for the children to play with. Ever since I came to Egypt one year ago, I have only bought the things you can see now – I haven’t bought anything else. We didn’t bring anything from Syria because we left when the fighting began, we just had to flee. I don’t know what happened to my home, and whether it has been burned. I don’t know anything.

I have my papers from Syria, but haven’t got residency in Egypt yet. To get the residency papers, I would need to register my children in a private school. I got a book from the school to be signed as proof of residency, but it wasn’t good enough. The private schools are known for being very expensive in Egypt. It is easier for Palestinian refugees to get services from humanitarian agencies in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, but not in Egypt. We are unable to go to Jordan or Lebanon, as it is too expensive and Lebanon has stopped taking Palestinian Syrians. We have no money to sign the children up for private school, and anyway it would only be half the way towards residency. The other way is with the Egyptian government. However we may go somewhere else. My cousin went overseas to Europe, and left all his things for us to use. He has now registered his children at school in Norway. My other cousin went to Germany. We would like go to Europe too.