The sea swallows a Lebanese migrant family

The sea swallows a Lebanese migrant family
Blog: Nine out of 12 members from the Safwan family drowned while attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece on a rubber in search of a better life.
3 min read
16 Oct, 2015
The Safwan family mourns the loss of relatives who drowned in Turkey [Hussain Beidoun/al-Araby al-Jadeed]

Mayez Safwan became determined to seek a better life in Europe along with 12 members of his family, after things failed to improve in Lebanon.

So, on October 11, Safwan and his family left Beirut and headed to Turkey.

From there, they took a bus to the port city of Izmir where rubber boats were ready to take "migrants" into the direction of Greece. But things did not go as they had planned.

Difficult living conditions

Two years ago, Mayez left the town of Ghawgharan in Qusair, on the border with Syria, after the fighting intensified there and living conditions deteriorated.

He tried to settle in Beirut with his relatives, but the economic situation did not help him and his family improve their lives at all.

After months of living in one of Beirut's suburbs, the Ouzai area, Mayez made the decision that enough was enough. He was to leave and go to Germany where he once lived for a few years when he was young.

As travelling legally was not an option that was available for Mayez and his family, he decided that the best way was the sea.

Shocking news

On Thursday, the remaining members of the Safwan family in Lebanon were agonised and shocked when they received news that the boat carrying their relatives had sunk in the Aegean Sea.

Reports say that all but three of the 12 Safwans on board had drowned.

Another member of the family, Moussa Safwan, held his pregnant wife for several hours in the water until her body became stiff.

He let her go and swam to shore. He is one of the three survivors, along with Maher Safwan and Ayad Safwan who are in Turkish custody for questioning.

Mayez's son Mohammad, who decided to stay in Lebanon as he was preparing to travel to Africa for work, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that his father "made sure that the Greek borders were open to reach Germany" and "did not expect the sea voyage to be risky".

Mayez's daughter, Kelly Safwan, 22, told AFP, "Life is not good here. They were not happy. It is clear to everyone how the situation is in Lebanon. Everyone is leaving."

In Izmir, the trade in human smuggling into Europe is massive and most of it is not guaranteed.

Many smugglers are devious and cheat the migrants. But the deal obtained by Mayez's family was good, according to his family in Lebanon.

They said the smuggler received $2,000 for each member of the Safwan family and another smuggler offered them a small boat for $600, so that they did not have to share with other families.

Al-Araby contacted the Greek coast guard but did not receive an answer.

However, one responded saying, "I am physically and emotionally tired. I cannot continue to relay more bad news to families. I'm sorry."