The Five Questions Refugees Ask When Arriving In Europe

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Refugees and migrants walk after disembarking from the passenger ferry Eleftherios Venizelos from the island of Lesbos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, December 26, 2015. The UNHCR, on Friday, revealed the top five questions that refugees ask on disembarking. Michalis Karagiannis/Reuters

"I've lost my baby's bottle. Where can I get milk for my baby?" is one of five questions asked by refugees when arriving on European shores.

Tens of thousands of refugees are at this moment moving through Europe. Fleeing from violent warzones in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, many are having to make desperate decisions—some which prove detrimental and some with happy endings. More than 1 million refugees crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 with the hopes of continuing their journey into central Europe, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Refugees fleeing from countries such as, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are constantly faced with the possibility of drowning and Turkish people smugglers who take advantage of these vulnerable individuals.

Non-governmental organization groups, charities and aid workers greet thousands of refugees, providing them with useful information and guidance, and commodities as valuable as food and shelter are essential. According to Arabic-speaking Public Service Interpreter Aziza Fahim, who has previously worked for Amnesty International's Middle East program in Lesbos, most of them arrive confused and desperate for information in order to continue their journey. Fahim talks Newsweek through the five most common questions asked by new arrivals.

  1. "Where can I get registered?"

The most common question asked, Fahim says, is about a "map." In Arabic, it means "registered," Fahim explains, who spent time in Lesbos in October. During the registration process, people are asked to state their nationality and required to show passports. Once they are registered, they are then permitted to continue their journey into Europe.

Reports emerged on November 21 about the unfair registration process in Lesbos. Non-governmental group Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised Greek authorities for allegedly accelerating the process for Syrian refugees, allowing them to leave the island for mainland Europe within 24 hours, The Guardian newspaper reported. People from Afghanistan and Iraq, on the other hand, are made to wait up to a week for their passports to be processed.

2. "Where do I get a SIM card?"

Once they have successfully navigated their way across the Aegean Sea, refugees must inform their loved ones of their successful journey. "As soon as they arrive, people are trying to call their families to let them know that they have arrived safely," Fahim says. Syrian SIM cards, though, are useless in Europe. With a working SIM, people are able to download relevant information, such as a map, and continue with into western Europe.

3. "Where can I get milk for my baby?"

Worried mothers arrive will often be on a search for milk for their children. Having travelled for around two days to reach the island, some women are unable to breastfeed. As Fahim describes: "Some baby's hadn't had any milk for two days, so of course, it was a problem." One day in October, Fahim says, around 5,000 people were moving through the camp. "We went through hundreds of baby bottles and milk."

4. "Where is the WiFi?"

Another very common question asked, Fahim says. "Again, people want to get in touch with their families." Technology has transformed this modern crisis as smartphone maps, global positioning apps, social media and WhatsApp have become essential tools. They all need working access to the internet and their mobiles need enough battery life. "I set up a post so people could charge their phones," Fahim explains. "It was pretty successful and many found it very useful!"

5. "How long must I stay before I can leave?"

"Most people are very impatient about leaving, they don't really want to hang around," Fahim says. "If people arrive in the evening or late afternoon, they have to stay in a camp in Oxy overnight, north east of the island, due to bus shortages." Many people are unhappy to learn this and some don't realise they have to be registered before they take the ferry to Greece, Fahim says.

The majority of people, Fahim says, ask how to get to Germany. "Eight out of ten people said they wanted to go to Germany. But, some also said they were going to other European countries, such as Sweden, Austria and Norway."

In 2015, one million refugees and asylum seekers applied for asylum status in Europe. As the conflict in Syria remains unresolved, numbers are only set to rise. "Access to education, the right to work, and jobs in these countries is the most viable way to reduce onward movement," Director of the Refugees Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, Alexander Betts tells Newsweek via email.

"In the absence of change at the level of root causes, Europe should prepare for continuity, with possibly another one million arriving in 2016," he adds.