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Reunited with two-year-old son they thought had perished
A SYRIAN couple who have sought asylum in Cyprus were reunited with their two-year-old son yesterday, three months after they believed the toddler had perished in their bombed out home outside Damascus.
In an story that could be almost be described as miraculous, the boy was found wandering on the streets by strangers, handed over to Syrian rebels, and placed in a camp where incredibly, even amid all the chaos and confusion, he was recognised by friends of his parents.
The family was reunited yesterday with the help of Limassol-based lawyer Stella Constantinou.
According to Constantinou, little Bushr Al Tawashi’s tale began in mid-July when his mother Arin Al Dakkar and father Machhour Al Tawashi were running for their lives during bombing on the outskirts of Damascus where President Bashar Al Assad’s forces had been clashing with rebels who were pushing to gain control of the city.
Hundreds of families reportedly fled the city, among them Bushr’s mother and father who grabbed his older brothers, aged four and six, thinking that someone else from the extended family had grabbed the youngest.
Constantinou said the family only realised Bushr was not among them when they reached the safety of a refugee camp, and they realised that the boy was not actually with anyone they knew. “They could not go back nor could anyone else.” The road was blocked and there was fighting,” said Constantinou.
“They thought the baby was dead. How was he going to survive the ruins?”
On August 6, the refugee family came to Cyprus via Larnaca airport to ask for political asylum. An official document from Syria mentioned they had three children, another reminder of their loss.
But unknown to them Bushr managed to stay alive long enough for another fleeing family – strangers to the couple – to find him and hand him over to the rebels, Constantinou said. “Little Bushr had found himself in the ruins of his bombed home,” she said.
The rebels took the boy to safety at another refugee camp where family friends recognised him and got in touch with the couple in Cyprus.
"His parents came to me for help,” Constantinou said.
They got in touch with her through a friend who spoke Arabic. Constantinou said they were begging for her help to get their son back. “I did what I could,” Constantinou said.
Reaching out to ruling party AKEL MP Christos Mesis, Constantinou managed to get through to Interior Minister Eleni Mavrou and the foreign ministry to arrange for the family to be reunited.
There were a number of steps to be taken, including satisfying the authorities the boy was really their lost son.
The Cyprus embassy in Syria – though nominally functional – was unable to help and Bushr with his aunt had to go to Lebanon so that his father could go and fetch him with the help of Cyprus’ embassy in Beirut.
The foreign ministry said there was no statement to be made at present when asked to comment yesterday.
However the media were all over the story and the reunited family found themselves mobbed by television cameras yesterday. Both mother and father thanked the government and Constantinou through a friend who was interpreting for them.
“I didn’t believe they would bring [my] baby here. But they did,” father Machhour Al Tawashi said. His mother Arin Al Dakkar tried to contain her tears in front of the cameras at the airport and at their Limassol home.
“She can’t say what she has inside of her but she wants to thank the Cyprus Republic and Ms Stella who helped and brought the baby to Cyprus,” the interpreter said.
Sigma TV showed the reunited siblings playing with a balloon and mother and father kissing their sons but Constantinou said that the family was a “little apprehensive” of the media attention.
“After all, they have lived through dramatic times and there is still a war in their country,” she said. But after so many months they are finally together again.
Also yesterday a small boat with two Syrian families sailed in to Ayia Napa just before 6am, police said.
The boat carried ten people including six children aged between two and thirteen years old. The refugees were referred to the welfare services.