A Christian brother and sister from Syria felt blessed to have been among the dozen refugees selected to start a new life in Italy — but now say their savior, Pope Francis, abandoned them on a Greek island.
UK Daily Mail A Christian brother and sister from Syria say they have been ‘let down’ bythe Popeafter he left them behind in a Lesbos refugee camp despite promises they would be given a new life in Italy.
Roula and Malek Abo say they were two of the lucky ‘chosen 12’ refugees selected by the Vatican to be taken from the desperate camp and housed in Rome. But what seemed like the chance of a lifetime was cruelly snatched away when they were told the following day they couldn’t go. Instead three Muslim families were taken.
Roula, 22, and her brother arrived on Lesbos on April 1 – ten days after the controversial EU deal to return all asylum seekers arriving to Greece from Turkey. Their application for asylum is being process and they are waiting to learn if they will be sent back to Turkey.
Stuck on Lesbos, Roula told MailOnline: ‘If they can do this for 12 people they can do it for more. ‘If you have promised to take people back to Italy will something like registration papers stand in your way?’
Neither Community Sant’Egidio, the charity which organised the trip, or the Vatican would explain the selection process over which migrants were picked. Spokesman Massimiliano Signifredi called the incident ‘regrettable’ – adding: ‘The problem here is the three Syrians arrived after the March 20 deadline. They arrived just after the agreement between the European Union and Turkey.
Mr Signifredi said: ‘Our staff went to Lesbos and spoke with the people who were selected. But everything was decided by the Vatican. ‘The question why the Pope took only Muslims is difficult to understand.The Vatican declined to comment.
Still reeling over her dream being so cruelly dashed, Roula had to watch the three fortunate families board a plane for a new life in Europe while she and her brother were left behind to face an uncertain future in Greece.
Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, said the decision to take a dozen to Italy was a gesture of goodwill to set an example to the world to extend the hand of friendship during Europe’s migrant crisis.
Roula, her brother, 28, and a third man, their friend Samir, also 28, from Damascus, say a day or so before the Pope arrived they were approached by three volunteers believed to be from Sant’Egidio. She explained: ‘They said they would take us to Italy, to pack our bags and to meet them the next day.
‘It was so secretive – they didn’t announce it to anybody and we were told to keep it a secret ‘I was so excited to go to Italy – it was such a relief,’ he said. ‘They offered me my future on a plate, and then 24 hours later they took it away.
‘They had even told me that after a few months I could be reunited with my family and they would arrange for them to come from Damascus and join me in Italy.’ But the next day they received the crushing news that their places were given to another family. The reason they were given was because they had arrived in Greece after the March 20 deadline for the EU deal.
The Pope told reporters on the plane back from Lesbos that it had been the idea of one of his aides and that he had immediately agreed. Asked why they were all Muslim, he said there was something wrong with the papers of a Christian family that had originally been on the list.
All 12 migrants from three families have spoken of their delight at being set up in their own flats in Rome capital and given Italian lessons.
‘It was an amazing feeling [to be leaving the camp in Lesbos] because this was our big dream,’ said Hasan, a 31-year-old Muslim who fled after the Syrian regime tried to make him join the army. He is now in Rome with his son Riad, two, and wife, Nour.
‘When we came here to Sant’Egidio everyone has been very helpful and kind. Now we have our own room [apartment] which is just for us. ‘We have been treated very, very well. We really feel now at last we are safe.’
But 1,200 miles away in the sweltering makeshift camp with the rats, snakes and rubbish of those who remain faced with the prospect of being returned to Turkey is Samir. ‘I was very disappointed,’ he said.
The siblings are trying to stay positive as they want to travel to Germany where their mother is living. But they are at a loss to explain why Sant Edigio volunteers appeared to ‘play god’ and got their hopes up only to let them down. She went on: ‘We don’t care for one country over another – I just want to be with my mum.’
Roula and Malek left Qamishli, which is in Syria near the Turkish border, in March, in fear for their lives. ‘They killed the Christians in Raqqa we heard, so of course we had to leave,’ Roula said. Malek added: ‘We stayed as long as possible, because it’s not easy to get the money to leave Syria. It takes you 50 years to buy a house so you don’t decide to leave it in a minute.
‘We were clinging to the hope that it will get better. We know that as soon as we leave the house people will come and take our stuff. We know we can’t go back. Like many Syrians, he first tried to make a new life for himself in Turkey, despite having to wait for months on the Turkish-Syrian border, as Turkey has abandoned its open door policy to allow refugees fleeing the violence to safety.
‘I was in Istanbul for three months trying to find work. I tried so hard, but it was impossible. People look down on you there – they don’t want to hire Syrians,’ he said.
The latest figures from Eurostat reveal thatonly 20 percent of recent illegal entrants are Syrian, with the rest being economic opportunists from Bangladesh to South Sudan. So the great majority flooding to Europe now are not war refugees at all. Nevertheless, the lefty pope believes that law and sovereignty should be thrown out and replaced with utopian do-gooder fantasies.