Rami is a cute little boy. He has big black eyes and curly hair. A shy smile. His face is suspiciously pale though. Rami is suffering of Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of lymphoma cancer that originates from a specific type of white blood cells. Rami is in urgent need of bone marrow transplant. The boy is currently is a German hospital. And he could die soon, if his siblings who are trapped in Greece do not manage to reunite with him. Blame the closed borders. Rami is only 11 years old.
A bone marrow transplant can save his life and his siblings, two brothers and a sister, are the only potential matching donors who could save him. But they are stuck in Greece, together with their mother.
A dramatic appeal for the family reunification was made last week via UK’s Independent. At that point, Rami who had managed to reach Germany last month with his father did not know where the rest of the family was.
With the help of NGO “Arsis”, Um Rami and Rami’s siblings were located in Idomeni camp, among more than 13,000 other refugees waiting in vain for the borders to open. NGO’s and Greek authorities took the family to Greece’s second largest city in the North, Thessaloniki, accommodate them in a hotel and initiated procedures for the family to reunite.
“I took the trip and risked my children’s life just so I can try to make it in time for Rami’s bone marrow transplant. They told me the family reunification could take 4 months. My son won’t make it if it takes that long,” his mother, Um Rami, told The Independent.
Rami was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma five years ago – just after the start of the war in Syria began. While the boy was in hospital, his family was displaced from their home in Tadamoun by violence. Homeless, they shuttled between Syria and Lebanon during a nine-month period in which Rami was not able to access a hospital or receive chemotherapy.
At the end the family moved to Turkey, where “Rami was hospitalized for three months until his doctor sent him along with his father, at his own expense, to the University hospital in Munich, where he has been treated in the past 4 months,” so mother Um Rami at a press conference in Thessaloniki on Monday.
In Germany doctors said that his siblings were the best match for a bone marrow transplant. But mother and siblings were still in Turkey.
Abu Rami reportedly tried to get residency so he could bring his family over under the family reunification programme, but months passed without a result.
“Then a law was passed that refugees don’t qualify for family reunification until two years later,” he said. “I was forced to send the rest of my family via the smuggling route. Then they got to Greece… and the borders were all closed.”
Together with her children aged 3, 8, 14, as well as an 18-year-old nephew, mother Um Rami crossed the Aegean Sea on February 22. When they reached Idomeni, they found out that the borders were closed.
Today, the mother applied for asylum in Germany. The lawyer of Greek Council for Refugees who assist the family said in Thessaloniki that he believed the procedure would be completed in a few days.
If not… if family reunification procedures are followed by the book, the siblings could reach Germany simply… much too late.
Initial media reports wrote that Rami was 7 years old but his mother said he was 11.
*in Arabic: Abu Rami = Rami’s father, Um Rami = Rami’s mother.
PS if EU staff on Greek islands examine asylum applications within a week, Germany can do the same with Rami’s family.