Osama’s Journey from Yemen to Greece

A 12-year-old boy who escaped conflict searches for safety and opportunity

Melanie Sharpe
Osama, 12, at the Moria Refugee Reception and Identification Centre, Lesvos, Greece.
29 March 2019

It is estimated that 23,000 refugee and migrant children arrived by sea to Greece, Italy and Spain last year, the vast majority fleeing conflict, extreme poverty and persecution.

One of these children is 12-year-old Osama who fled the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

“I thought ‘it’s over, I’m going to die.’ This is how my life ends” Osama told UNICEF about crossing the sea to reach Greece with his family.

“My future in Yemen was uncertain, I couldn’t study to be a doctor or an engineer or anything. I want to be a doctor because I want to help others and my family,”

he said.

Osama and his family have been living in the Reception and Identification Centre, in Moria on the island of Lesvos in Greece. The Centre is meant to conduct arrival procedures for new refugees and migrants, but due to increased arrivals and overcrowding, families, including children, often stay at these centre for months, and sometimes even a year. 

UNICEF has been advocating that all vulnerable children living in Reception and Identification Centers on the Greek islands, especially children, need to be transferred to the mainland immediately to ensure their access to adequate protection, health care, accommodation and education opportunities.

After 3 months at the overcrowded centre in Moria, Osama and his family received news that they would be transferred to better accommodation managed by the International Organization for Migration on mainland Greece.

Today, in Athens Osama can continue his studies in a safer environment. He also visits Elix, a UNICEF-supported learning center, where he receives additional help with his studies in English and Greek. Osama hopes to one day fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.