It was almost a year ago that the tragic image of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Kurdish Syrian refugee who drowned while attempting to cross the Aegean Sea with his family, brought global attention to the refugee crisis. Twelve months on, what is the situation like for the thousands still desperate to reach safety? Amy Merone, from Christian Aid, reports from Greece where some 57,000 refugees are currently stuck as a result of closed borders and political inaction.
When Ruhia sits down to share her story, she does so clutching a red wallet. As she talks she sobs, grief-stricken, and opens it, removing two small photographs of a boy and a girl. They were her children, killed by the Taliban. Ruhia lifts the hem of her dress to reveal scars across her feet: wounds suffered when they attempted to cut her down as she fled.
She recounts the horrifying details of a brutality that has left her bereft. When sadness prevents her from speaking, her friend Rahima comes to comfort her: a consolation only possible between people who share the same extremity of pain. Like Ruhia, Rahima has also endured the loss of a child: her son was taken by the Taliban.
After finally managing to escape from Afghanistan, Ruhia and her one surviving son made the perilous journey to Europe in search of sanctuary. She nearly drowned in the attempt.
But instead of finding refuge on European shores, Ruhia has been forced to endure a new nightmare. By the time she arrived in Greece, European nations had closed their borders to refugees. She is now one of some 57,000 people stranded in the country. As an Afghan, she is not eligible for EU relocation. Presently, only Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans can apply.