Syrian refugee girl arrives in Britain after seven-year ordeal

Rouaa and her family fled chemical weapons attack on Damascus in 2013

Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their country since the war began in 2011. AFP
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A nine-year-old Syrian girl who was born at the outbreak of civil war in her country and became a refugee as an infant has arrived in Britain, completing a journey that for many has proven nearly impossible.

Rouaa arrived in the world as fighting began in 2011, but was forced to flee from Damascus with her family after a chemical weapons attack two years later. The family eventually made it to a refugee camp in Lebanon, where Rouaa has spent most of her childhood.

But the BBC, which has been following Rouaa’s story since she left her home, on Monday reported that the family had arrived in Britain, bringing to an end a seven-year journey to escape conflict in Syria.

Rouaa’s father told the BBC he thought his daughter would be happy in Britain and was extremely grateful to be there.

Syrian labourers work as residents reconstruct their damaged homes in al-Zahraa neighbourhood of Aleppo following years of conflict, on July 6, 2020.  Syria's war since 2011 has involved a host of regional and international players, created millions of refugees and displaced, and left more than 380,000 people dead. In a string of deadly campaigns, the regime retook key rebel bastions, from Aleppo in 2016 to Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital in 2018. / AFP / -
Syria's war since 2011 has created millions of refugees and displaced people, and left more than 380,000 people dead. AFP

“She told me that in the future she wants to be someone who does good things for this country which gave us a home and opened its heart to us,” he said.

Her family is among more than 5.6 million people who have fled Syria since 2011. More than a million Syrian refugees are in Lebanon, around 70 per cent of whom live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR.

Syria’s war created a migration crisis, with some of those who fled the country trying to reach safety in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians who attempted the often-perilous journey to the European Union eventually applied for asylum in its member countries. The vast majority of Syria’s refugees continue to live in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

In March 2019, the European Commission declared the migrant crisis to be over. However, a recent surge in violence in Syria’s north-western Idlib province prompted fears of a return to its peak in 2015 when more than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe.