A REFUGEE has spoken of his family’s escape from war in Syria and resettlement at their new home in Colwyn Bay.

Omer Safer and wife Shirrin fled their home in Aleppo in 2013, two years after the violent campaign by ISIS began in the capital Damascus and would spread to nearby towns and cities.

Last month marked 10 years since the multi-sided civil war started with the armed suppression of Arab Spring protestors. An estimated 100,000 people are still living in refugee camps, including Omer’s brother, Awaz, in Northern Iraq.

“We moved to Kobani in 2013 but then ISIS came and we had to leave again,” said Omer. “We knew we had to leave Syria permanently because it was not safe.”

The couple fled to the mountains and crossed the border to Turkey, where they handed over all of their savings to men who helped them over the border into Iraq. There they found sanctuary in a UN Refugee Camp, where they lived in a tent for two years amongst up to 770 other families in similar temporary accommodation. Temperatures could reach 50 degrees celcius during the summer and their first child was born in these conditions. On one windy night, Omer stood for nine hours holding the central pole of their tent to stop it from blowing away.

“We did not know that we would come to the UK until we were told by the UN in 2016,” said Omer, who studied English literature at Aleppo University. “We knew a lot about the UK but we wanted a place that was safe. Maybe because of our political opinion we were given the chance."

A plane took the couple and their child from Turkey to Manchester Airport and upon arrival they had no idea where their final destination would be beyond the UK. Staff from Conwy County Borough Council transported the family in a van, when Omer felt very confused as they came into Wales and the road signs were in a language he did not recognise.

They were the first Syrian refugees to be resettled in Conwy and two more families have arrived since, whom Omer and Shirrin have been able to help to settle in.

“We came in 2016 and at first we struggled," he said. "The council helped us but we didn’t know anybody. It was difficult to make friends but now we know our neighbours and Amnesty [Colwyn Bay branch].”

Omer became an interpreter and translator in Liverpool while Shirrin hopes to study English at college while caring for their three children, who attend school in the Colwyn Bay area.

“They [the children] are very happy. I like the area in North Wales and I want a place for my kids to grow. I don’t want to go back to Syria; I want the best life for them and to continue their education.”

The UK has accepted about 20,000 people from Syria over a period of three years under a refugee immigration scheme that has now ended.

Omer recently spoke about his experiences to the Colwyn Bay Amnesty branch and chair Maggie Towse has helped Omer in the years since he has moved to the town.

Ms Towse said: "Omer’s story gave group members real insight into the experiences of so many who have been forced to flee because of conflict or persecution, and a reminder to us all about the need for safe migration routes to avoid vulnerable people being exploited."

"Back in Syria, the fighting has not stopped and houses have been damaged or flattened, schools and hospitals struggle to function and poverty and unemployment are rife.

"Covid is, of course, everywhere, and has added to the problems facing Syrians both in the towns and cities and living in the camps."