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Syrian 11-Year-Old and Father Trapped in Casablanca Airport, Relatives Tell VICE News

Heder Jalabe and his father Bashar have been stuck in Casablanca airport since Monday morning, unable to enter Morocco because the 11-year-old Syrian has no visa, according to a cousin.
June 24, 2015, 12:50pm
Photo par Bashar Jalabe

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A Syrian father and son spent days trapped in legal limbo in Casablanca airport, after the 11-year-old boy was refused entry to Morocco.

In a message sent to VICE News, Bashar Jalabe said: "I am in a very bad situation. There is not a place to sleep and eat a little."

The father and son Heder arrived in Morocco on Monday morning, and Bashar continued: "We have been here for three days, my child [is] feeling cold, we don't know our situation, we are upset." On Wednesday afternoon, they were told they would be put on a plane back to Turkey, but they face an uncertain future.


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According to his nephew Harle Mar, Bashar actively opposed the Syrian government, and thus forced to leave the country about two years ago, leaving his young son behind in Homs so that he could continue to attend school.

Heder's mother died years ago, so he lived with an aunt. Several months ago — with her as the boy's guardian — they left Homs to travel to Damascus, and moved on to Turkey.

Bashar is married to a Moroccan woman and is a resident of the country, though he doesn't have citizenship. He said he was in the process of preparing papers for Heder to come to Morocco and join his new family, but it was a slow process.

Then, Heder's aunt died.

Heder Jalabe in Casablanca airport. Photo by Bashar Jalabe

Mar, a 21-year-old who fled Syria himself eight months ago, contacted VICE News about the family's ordeal.

"[Heder] doesn't have anything in Turkey," Mar said, adding: "If [Bashar] goes back to Syria he will be killed."

According to Mar, Heder stayed for 15 days with a Syrian family before his father arrived to collect him. When the Jalabes were in the airport in Turkey they were initially forbidden to board a plane to Morocco.

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Yet after hours of wrangling they were eventually allowed to travel but given documents that wouldn't allow them to return to Turkey for five years, according to the relative.


"[Bashar] wanted to bring his son to Morocco to ask for asylum, because it's impossible that his son would be in Turkey alone. And he doesn't have relatives in Syria. But asking for asylum is really complicated in Morocco," Mar continued.

Heder Jalabe sleeping in Casablanca airport. Photo by Bashar Jalabe

In Morocco, Heder was refused entry because he didn't have a visa, according to Mar's account. Bashar asked if could he go through passport control to get his wife, and — according to Mar — the authorities then confiscated his passport because they were afraid he would disappear, abandoning his young son in Casablanca airport.

On Wednesday, the father and son began their third day in the airport, uncertain if they would be allowed to enter. Mar told VICE News that the two migrants were sleeping on the floor, and said that Bashar was having problems with his stomach and his heart.

Their story is hardly an isolated incident. More than 9 million Syrians have been forced from their homes since the conflict broke out in 2011. Stories like Heder's represent just one of many that involve Syrian families being separated and dispersed, fleeing war only to face the obstacles that come with navigating complicated migration and asylum processes.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd