In memory of Muhammad Khair Ghalia (6 years old), who had been pushed back and injured before he drowned in the Aegean Sea

Photo provided by Muhammad’s family.

On 5.10.23 the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress in Turkish waters. It was a small rubber boat with 14 people on board. Eventually, after a long time of drifting at sea, they were found by the Turkish coastguard (TCG). They had been pushed back in the area around Chios.

Following this, in beginning of December 2023, we got in touch with a Syrian man who had been on board of the boat with his family. He told us in more in detail what had happened on that day. They had been attacked by the Greek coastguard who had severely mistreated them and destroyed the engine of the small rubber boat. The gasoline from the engine had then poured into boat. Two of his children suffered from serious burns on their legs from the toxic mix of gasoline and seawater. They had been sitting for hours in the mix of gasoline and seawater and had to be treated in hospital when they had arrived back in Turkey. He sent us photos of the injuries of the children.

At this point, his main question was how to find a safe way to get out of Turkey. The family had fled from the war in Syria to Turkey. Then, in Turkey they were hit by the earthquake. When they tried to flee from Turkey, they experienced this violent push-back, and now they were very much afraid to attempt another crossing by boat to flee to Europe. But, at the same time, Turkey was not safe for them, and he expressed his extreme fear of being deported to Syria. One of his brothers and a sister-in-law had already deported from Turkey to Syria. In Syria, his life would be even more at risk, and so staying in Turkey was no longer possible. Despite knowing the dangers that they faced in Turkey, they were extremely fearful of trying again to reach Greece by boat because of the violence they had faced during the last pushback. This fear was made worse due to the suffering of the children during the pushback and the serious injuries they had suffered with afterwards.

Unfortunately, there were no safe ways to get out of there. On the night of the 19th of January 2024, the family made another attempt to flee to Greece.

Overnight between the 19th and 20th of January 2024, we were alerted to a boat with 44 people onboard who had tried to cross between Datca and Symi. The boat was in serious distress. In the end, we were informed by the TCG that they had found a boat in the area with a total of 30 people. They informed us that several people had fallen into the water, so a search was started for the missing. 11 people were found alive and 3 dead; one of the survivors died later in the hospital.

Later, we found out that amongst those who drowned was Muhammad Khair Ghalia, the 6-year-old son of Hussein Ghalia, one of the children who had been so badly injured already in October.

Our thoughts are with Muhammad whose young life was lost at this deadly border of Europe.

Our thoughts are with his parents, sisters, and brothers, who tried to reach a safe place, but who are now missing Muhammad so much.

We will never forget the suffering of this child.

The family Ghalia is asking for support, they applied for resettlement so that their traumatised children can finally find a safe home, but so far, their chances to get it are very low. In case you have any possibilities to support, we can establish a direct contact to the family. Please send your contact details and how you could support via email to: