Reconnecting Syrian Refugees: the story of Berivan

After being reunited by the Bulgarian Red Cross, Berivan and her parents talk with Svetloslav Roussev, chief expert of Restoring Family Links in the International Department of the Bulgarian Red Cross.

After being reunited by the Bulgarian Red Cross, Berivan and her parents talk with Svetloslav Roussev, chief expert of Restoring Family Links in the International Department of the Bulgarian Red Cross.

Story by the Bulgarian Red Cross

Berivan and her family were separated for over a month and a half in Bulgaria. While crossing the Turkey-Bulgaria border, Berivan became lost. She was placed in an accommodation center of the State Agency for Refugees in Harmanli and her family was placed in Kovachevtzi. Following the intervention of the Bulgarian Red Cross team to restore family links, Berivan and her family are together again.

On November 18, 2013 Berivan, with her parents, younger sister and two brothers, embarked on the difficult and dangerous journey to cross the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. Their goal was to get to Europe, to search for a better future and to escape from the horrors of the war in Syria.

They travelled in a group of twenty-five people and were led by smugglers, who often forced the group to run. Early one morning during this dangerous journey, Berivan lost her family. Berivan and two of her cousins found themselves separated from their family in the forest. Later, they were captured by Border Patrol and sent to the temporary accommodation center in Elhovo. After three days, they were transferred to the refugee center in Harmanli.

Meanwhile, her family had not managed to cross the border and returned back to Turkey without knowing the fate of their daughter. In late November, they took a new journey but were abandoned by their smugglers. For two days, they were lost in the forest without food and water. Eventually they were arrested by the Border Police, sent to center in Elhovo, and then transferred to the refugee center in Kovachevtsi.

When the humanitarian team of Red Cross visited the family in Kovachevtzi, Leila – Berivan’s mother – asked them to search for her daughter. Leila’s sister, Nadja, also asked the Red Cross to search for the two children she had lost while crossing the border – Abdul and Bashar.

The case was registered by the expert of the Red Cross, and the necessary Bulgarian institutions were contacted to search for Berivan and her cousins. Svetloslav Roussev, Chief Expert for International Cooperation and Tracing, managed to make contact between the mothers and their children. On December, 30, after more than a month and a half of separation, the children were transported to Kovachevtsi. It was a great gift for the New Year.

When reunited with her family, Berivan was overcome by emotion, saying, “I cannot express my happiness…I have no words. I was so happy that they found me and that I was brought here…Thanks to God that I am finally with my family…We are very thankful [for] what the Red Cross did.”

In Bulgaria, there has been a crisis situation since an influx in the number of refugees entering the country started in September 2013. Since then, the Bulgarian Red Cross has been doing its best to support the asylum seekers who have found refuge in Bulgaria. The Red Cross provides humanitarian relief for refugees including food and psycho-social support for refugee children and youth. As of early March 2014, over 10,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War are residing in Bulgaria. In the first few months of the crisis, the Bulgarian Red Cross reconnected four families separated while entering the Republic of Bulgaria.

For more on the Bulgarian Red Cross, please click here.