Ex-Iraqi interpreter for US army abandoned, stranded at Greece’s Idomeni refugee camp

Among thousands of refugees trapped on the Greek and Macedonian (FYROM) border there are some who qualify for asylum more than others. RT’s Roman Kosarev met a former US army interpreter, who can’t return home to Iraq because he faced death threats.

Ibrahim Ismael Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Iraqi is a former interpreter who worked for the US army during the NATO intervention in Iraq. Like many other Iraqis with such a work history, he can never go back: he started receiving death threats right after his tenure ended.

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“I returned to Baghdad. People came at me one day, threatened me and pushed my shoulders, like an animal. I will never forget that,” he recalled.

Threatened numerous times and urged by his family to leave Iraq, Ibrahim had to flee his home town and for nearly a decade wander across Syria, Kurdish northern Iraq and Turkey, working odd jobs to support his family.

“I went to Syria and applied to the United Nations there and I was waiting for two months to hear from the UN,” he told RT. “But the situation was bad there too. There were no jobs, and no work. So I went back to Iraq again.”

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He eventually decided to try and reunite with his sister living in the US, as he could be eligible for a US Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) because of his service with the US troops in Iraq. But to obtain the visa, Ibrahim required proof of his six months of employment. He contacted a friend from the war time in Iraq, describing the situation he has been in, but he hasn’t heard back.

“I had contact with them [the US military] via e-mail. So, I contacted my friend, Sergeant Donald Workman, he was in Iraq, too. I told him what happened to me and that I can't be here anymore. Last time, he didn’t answer. I think that he must have gone to the United States.”

Ibrahim spoke much of feeling abandoned, especially as he has been separated from his wife for some time now. Diana has left Iraq earlier and currently lives in Canada, which makes it Ibrahim’s ultimate goal to be reunited with her as soon as possible. But the Canadian government needs an official marriage certificate for the procedure, while all Ibrahim has to prove his relation to Diana is a piece of paper signed by hand by several witnesses, as Islamic tradition dictates.

Ibrahim’s parents are now in Turkey and his sister would be able to bring them to the United States in a few months, but it might take years for him to join them.

After a series of futile attempts to get an American visa, Ibrahim is now left to wait for a chance to go further into Europe with tens of thousands of other asylum seekers, each with his or her own story behind them.

Ibrahim and his fellow-asylum seekers have to live in dire conditions, crammed together in tents. His neighbor has a story of her own, stuck at the border crossing with five children, while her husband waits for her in Germany.

Some of the people, like Ibrahim, just wait and try to occupy themselves with helping others (he works at the kitchen and interprets), while others, tired of waiting, stage protests, demanding the border with the Republic of Macedonia be opened.

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On Tuesday, they blocked rail lines and clashed with the Greek police in a protest against the closure of the so-called Balkan route, which has been used to travel from Greece to central and northern Europe.

More than 50,000 migrants are stranded in Greece after other European countries sealed off the Balkan route. An estimated 11,500 people are camped at the border with Macedonia, with no one able to tell exactly what the next day will bring about, as under the new deal with Turkey many of them will likely be sent back.