A desperate Syrian refugee has spoken of his incredible story of swimming for seven hours to reach Greece from Turkey.
Ameer Mehtr braved massive waves and deadly currents in the massively dangerous crossing, which he says after people have tried and failed, costing them their lives.
Ameer explained how he simply didn’t have enough money to pay smugglers to ‘help’ him make the perilous crossing across Europe, after his family lost their home and were completely penniless because of the civil war in Syria.
The lad previously trained with the Syrian national swimming team in the capital of Damascus and he soon realised that his only chance of starting a new life in Europe was to brave the four-mile swim across the Aegan Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos.
He spent several months preparing for the crossing, training nearly every day with a swimming coach in the sea off the coast of Lebanese capital, Beirut, where had been temporarily living after fleeing his homeland back in May.
Finally, in September he felt he was ready to try the crossing, having spent time studying maps to work out the shortest route.
On the night he decided to take to the water – near the town of Guzelcamli – Ameer explained how he had to run for more than hour to evade capture from Turkish police, who were looking for people smugglers.
Already knackered at this point, he was forced to start swimming as soon as he could, entering the water just wearing what you’d expect to at your local pool.
He managed to grab a handful of personal possessions and tie them to his waist for the crossing and a few ginger-flavoured dates wrapped in clingfilm to give him some energy for the arduous journey.
Against all the odds, he somehow made it to Samos. But his horrendous ordeal was far from over. He had to walk another seven miles before reaching any port where he could officially register as an EU refugee.
He then spent a month living in refugee camps and travelling on packed trains with other migrants to reach Sweden.
Speaking to The Sunday Times from an asylum centre he now lives at in Sweden, Ameer said: “Every second of the way I thought I was going to die. But I kept going. I just kept looking at the cliffs in front of me and thinking ‘Here is my future’.”
Ameer went on to claim that his story of swimming across the sea was certainly not unique in any sense. He added: “I’m far from the only one who has made this journey – there are many more who have been swimming.”
According to the International Organisation For Migration, more than 2,800 migrants are reported to have died trying to make the crossing into Europe this year, after using rubber dinghies or flimsy wooden boats to make the crossing.
More than 920,000 migrants are estimated to have arrived by sea alone so far this year, according to the IOM but exact numbers are unclear as some may have passed through borders undetected.
This is an incredible story of triumph over adversity, but we cannot forget the thousands who have fled their war-torn countries and ultimately lost their lives in the pursuit for a better life.
The Sunday Times