One year ago today, Mahmoud left Lesvos. After two years on the Aegean Island, the then 25-year-old had received his second asylum rejection and, consequently, had 10 days to leave Greece. 

So, with the help of Google Maps, Mahmoud spent the best part of a month walking, busing and driving to The Netherlands – the place he’d been dreaming of since 2015 when he said goodbye to his mother and three sisters and fled his home in Syria. 

Now, 10 months after arriving in Holland, one journey has finished, but another has just begun. Having volunteered with Movement On The Ground during his time on Lesvos, 

Mahmoud has recently re-joined the team in The Netherlands, working as a trainee mentor with unaccompanied minors in the completely overrun Dutch asylum system.

“I have been in the same situation as these minors, away from my family, without anyone to take care of me” 
~ Mahmoud

“And if someone had guided me then, I know I’d be in an even better place than I am now. So, it’s my job to do that for them – teaching them to respect themselves and others is a big part.” 

As Mahmoud quickly settles into his work, he admits it’s been hard to find his place in Holland. 

“When I left Lesvos, I had to be pushed onto the ferry. I’d been waiting for that moment for two years but all my friends, family, and my role with MOTG were there. It felt like home because I had made it my home.”

Since arriving in The Netherlands 10 months ago, Mahmoud has yet to feel that again. After starting his asylum process, he’s been bounced around reception centres while waiting to be allocated permanent accommodation. The 26-year-old is now in a shared room in an Amsterdam hotel housing 900 other refugees. 

“My roommate is an old man, so he’s snoring too much. The whole room is shaking, but I respect him, so I’m not going to wake him. I just need to have a space with some privacy. It’s not healthy to live like this for a long time.” 

With the Dutch asylum system run off its feet, it’s not clear when Mahmoud will get his own space however, he’s able to think about the big picture. 

“When I saw the sign ‘Welcome to The Netherlands’, that was a big moment, but many people have done this – made it here.

Ultimately, he wants to own a clothing store. And to keep that in mind, he gives himself the same advice as he gives others looking to make a fresh start. 

“Never give up. Don’t let anything stop you. If you can see your dream in front of you, don’t just stand there and look at it – make the moves to get it. It took me six years to get to Amsterdam, but I made it.”

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