Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Refugees arrive after harrowing escape

Syrian refugees Abdel Razzak (centre rear) with his brothers and family at the Mangere refugee centre. Photo / Simon Collins
Syrian refugees Abdel Razzak (centre rear) with his brothers and family at the Mangere refugee centre. Photo / Simon Collins

Abdel Razzak had to be carried on a chair in agony for two months to reach Lebanon after he was shot in the abdomen in Syria's civil war.

The home he shared with extended family in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta was destroyed by a bomb in the same 2014 attack.

His wife was pregnant at the time with their second son Moner, now 18 months old.

His father, Mahmoud, lost all but three of his teeth. The remaining three teeth have been taken out since the family arrived at the Mangere refugee centre last week in the first group of 82 Syrians under a Government policy to take 600 extra Syrians on top of New Zealand's annual quota of 750 refugees.

In the midst of the Syrian war, there was no way to get to a hospital.

"Some people helped him," said a young Palestinian refugee who knew enough English to interpret.

"People were carrying him in a chair. When he got to Lebanon he was very sick."

Mahmoud, who started the family butchery and fruit business, said they had lost the business as well as their home.

"There is nothing left for us there, it's all gone," he said.

"We kept running away from one place to another, one place to another, until some people helped us to get to Lebanon.

"It was death staring us in the eye. It was bombardment. It was incredibly cold.

"We walked for huge distances and we were always targeted, there would be either bombardment or sniper attacks. We had to pay a pile of money."

In Lebanon, the family rented a house. Abdel Razzak's three older brothers found work. Younger brother Bashir Mohamed, 17, found sporadic work "carrying stuff on his back" for "very small money".

Mahmoud and his wife, with Abdel Razzak and his wife and their two children, Bashir Mohamed and one other brother are now safe in Mangere and will settle in Wellington.

But Mahmoud is anxious about his three older sons and their families still in Lebanon, and his daughter and her family who fled to Egypt. "I hope and wish that they will come here."

- NZ Herald

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