Mohammad and Aliaa are a charming couple. They are talented and interesting.
Mohammad is a teacher who uses drama therapy to help traumatised children, and his partner Aliaa is a journalist.
When I met them we had coffee, and their friendly, outgoing natures meant that conversation and laughter came very easily.
In another life I could easily imagine us being friends, but in this one, Mohammad and Aliaa are from Syria, and they have given up all that they have, and all that they know, to escape that country’s dreadful war.
Aliaa says she has seen too many of her friends die. Mohammad says he was being forced to fight in Assad’s army. Both feared for their lives so long as they stayed at home.
And so they are among the tens of thousands of people who have made the journey across the Mediterranean Sea this year, desperate to ?nd a better life. Or maybe just a life
And so they are among the tens of thousands of people who have made the journey across the Mediterranean Sea this year, desperate to ?nd a better life. Or maybe just a life.
They paid eight hundred dollars each to people smugglers in Turkey. On the coast near Bodrum, the smugglers put Mohammad and Aliaa and 22 other people on a boat which measured about six metres long.
They told them to choose one person to operate the motor, which direction to head in and that the journey to the Greek Islands should last about two hours.
Then they left them to it.
After an hour and a half, the motor broke down. No-one on board knew how to ?x it. So for the next half an hour they bobbed helplessly on the water. The sea was getting rougher. Their fears of capsizing grew with the waves.
In the pitch black of the night, a light appeared on the horizon.
Was that another boat? The optimists on board started to whistle, and light up their mobile phones to attract attention.
The pessimists had heard stories of gangs of pirates on the sea, preying on desperate people like them, with all that they own in their pockets.
The light got closer. It was another boat.
As the only English speaker on board , Aliaa was given the task of shouting out. “We need help here,” she called.
From behind the searchlight, the voice of a Greek coastguard calls back. “Don’t do anything, we will come alongside and pick you up”.
Relief washed across the deck of the little boat.
Aliaa told me it felt like God had sent angels to rescue them.
As the light of the dawn stretched across the water, she and Mohammad cuddled up on the coastguard launch as it sped towards port in the Greek islands.
Despite their still very fragile situation, joyful smiles spread across their faces.
They have a long way to go before they ?nd the asylum they seek, but they have lived to see another sunrise, and made it safely across the sea.