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Meet Muhammed Ali - a refugee boy stranded in Greece

When Muhammed Ali was just five days old his family fled fighting in Aleppo, Syria. Their lives are now on hold.

Photo: Euan Robinson for the IRC
Global Communications Officer, International Rescue Committee

"I am not super strong, but I am super smart,” Muhammed Ali explains to his Mum after visiting a Safe Healing and Learning Space in the refugee camp where he now lives.

Like the majority of the estimated 60,000 refugees now stranded in Greece, Muhammed Ali's family fled violence in Syria. Unlike most of them, he was only five days old when the journey in search of safety began. Today, along with his Mum and two siblings, he is living in a camp in northern Greece, waiting and hoping for the day that he will be able to see his Dad and sister Noora again. They are now in Germany.

Safe Spaces help the children to forget the reality of life here, the things they have experienced during the war." Gaili Aziz, Muhammed Ali’s mother.

Muhammed Ali, who is now 4 years old, visits the IRC’s Safe Space for children three times a week. “They do exercises, drawing, singing, and learning important things like how to keep clean, and how to interact with other children his age,” explains Muhammed Ali’s mother, Gaili Aziz.

Muhammed Ali, 4, one of the around 60,000 refugees currently stranded in Greece. Photo: Euan Robinson for the IRC

Safe Healing and Learning Spaces provide psychosocial activities to children through structured and age-appropriate group and individual activities. These interventions prioritise children’s safety, security, as well as their psychosocial well-being through a wide range of activities.

“It helps the children to forget the reality of life here, the things they have experienced during the war,” she continues.

“The very best thing Muhammed Ali learned there, is not to rely on your muscles but to use your brain.”

Safe Spaces benefit not only the children that attend them, but also their family. Koko, Muhammed Ali's aunt, explains: "When I take the children to the safe space, it doesn't just make them feel better but helps me and makes me feel safe."

"The children learn how to be strong and positive, and they also learn more and more about the other communities living in the camp," she continues. 

Muhammed Ali sits with his aunt and siblings at the Alexandria refugee camp in northern Greece.

Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill for the IRC

Since January 2015 over one million refugees have travelled through Greece in search of safety and sanctuary in Europe. The IRC has been responding to the crisis in Greece since July 2015, and in March 2016, expanded its response to the Greek mainland. Supported by the European Commission, the IRC in Greece is focused on three areas: environmental health, emergency financial assistance, and protection and information. The IRC programme funded by the European Commission benefits refugees currently stranded in nine sites across Greece. Learn more about the IRC’s response to the refugee crisis. Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Medium.