By: Sophie Ma
750 migrants boarded an unsafe blue fishing trailer and ended up in one of the deadliest Mediterranean shipwrecks. Each person on that boat had some desperate reason to board the ship, but for Thaer Khalid al-Rahal it was for his 4-year-old son.
Rahal’s family had lived in a Jordanian refugee camp, and for the past decade they have been waiting for official resettlement after they fled the war in Syria. But their agency’s funds have been decreasing.
Not only had they been in the camp for so long without being properly resettled, Rahal’s youngest son, Khalid, was diagnosed with leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer. Finally, Rahal decided he needed to get to Europe and start working for money to save his son.
According to his cousin, “Thaer thought he didn’t have a choice,”
Rahal’s family didn’t know how he contacted smugglers from Libya, but he did. He boarded the boat along with hundreds of others. Most families said that the departure surprised them.
Waiting at Libya was harder than most of the migrants expected, and the migrants mentioned that the smugglers treated them like “ goods to be traded”. While waiting, Rahal spoke to his wife every day, and after a month there was still no news of continuing onward. He found another smuggler who promised to be faster and he took the opportunity.
Rahal continued to worry for Khalid. “I don’t know,” Rahal would text the boy when he asked when they would see each other again. His last call to his wife was on June 8th, as they packed tightly into the rickety blue boat.
After the last calls, no news came in until June 14th. The initial report said that at least 17 people had drowned, but mentioned at least 100 people that had been saved.
People piled into community centers and refugee reception centers seeking news about their family members.
Khalid asked for his father over and over again, yet no one knew how to tell the young boy dealing with cancer that his father had been lost at sea.
Rahal’s wife, Nermin, had to take young Khalid to the hospital to see how far the cancer had spread. She also had to organize her husband's funeral.