Ipswich life is ‘beautiful’ for young Syrian refugee Humam

Humam Muhrat, who has made a new life in Ipswich.

Humam Muhrat, who has made a new life in Ipswich. - Credit: sarah lucy brown

A refugee who has escaped a war-torn province in Syria and resettled in Suffolk is urging people to reassess their views on victims of the crisis.

L-R Jodi Peck (Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme Coordinator), Saleem Thabit and Humam Muhrat.

L-R Jodi Peck (Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme Coordinator), Saleem Thabit and Humam Muhrat. - Credit: sarah lucy brown

Six weeks ago, Humam Muhrat, 20, moved to Ipswich with his mother, brother, 18, and 10-year-old sister to start a new life away from “machine guns” and “bombs”.

He said: “It’s a beautiful feeling here because you have a lot of chances for studying or working.

“The future is here. It is good and safe.”

In 2012 Humam’s family home in the Syrian city of Homs was destroyed by a missile.

When men reach the age of 18 it is compulsory for them to join the Syrian Army.

But Humam did not want to fight in the war: “Because first you shouldn’t kill innocent people, and second you may die.”

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Instead, Humam and his family fled to Lebanon, where they stayed for two years.

Crowded among other refugees searching for safety, Humam was unable to study and was made to work for no money.

This was a “miserable life”, Humam said, and “worse than Syria”.

Humam said the Syrian Civil War had started out as a “peaceful protest” in 2011, but soon turned dangerous and now involved four or five armies.

Addressing public apprehension over refugees resettling in the UK, Humam said: “Don’t take the wrong idea on us, because we are smart people and kind people. Not a barbarian like they say in the news. They don’t know us until now to take a judgement on us.

“We just need the government and the people here to take a best photo of us, the Syrian people and families, not what they say on the TV.”

Since being in Ipswich, Humam said he had experienced discrimination once while playing football. He said: “It’s an awful feeling, but you don’t need to answer, just ignore it.”

Today, Humam is looking towards his future in Suffolk, hoping to take classes to improve his English in order to go to university. He wants to work as a pharmacist, as his father did before he died in 2007 – of natural causes.

One day he would like to return to Syria when the war ends and rebuild the life he left behind.

Helping Humam settle in Ipswich is Saleem Thabit, who is working for Suffolk Refugee Support.

Saleem, 24, moved to Ipswich from Syria six years ago to study. He is now in his final year of a mechanical engineering degree at University of Suffolk.

He said: “When I first heard about Syrian families arriving in the UK I didn’t hesitate to go and help because I thought I would have liked someone to help me out when I first arrived here.”

Describing Syria before the conflict started, Saleem said: “It was just beautiful.

“Words fail to describe how life was like there. Everyone I see I just tell them it’s unfortunate they didn’t go to Syria in 2010 or 2009, because you missed a lot of chances.

“In 2010 life had never been so good in Syria.”

Support service helping families settle in Suffolk

Seven Syrian families have resettled in Suffolk this year as part of the UK’s promise to help refugees displaced by war.

Political leaders across Suffolk’s public sector have agreed to take in up to 200 refugees from the camps surrounding Syria over the next five years.

Due to the location of suitable housing, health, education and support services, the refugees will find new homes predominantly in the greater Ipswich area – with properties provided mostly by private sector landlords.

Suffolk Refugee Support (SRS) has been commissioned to deliver specialist case work for those arriving from Syria.

Jodi Peck, who is coordinating the programme for SRS, said the first families who arrived in March were settling in well.

“They are integrating into the community, but I think it is still challenging for them sometimes,” she added.

“The situation is still happening there, it still affects them even though they are far away from it.”

The Syrian people in Ipswich meet up regularly and help each other adapt to their new community.

Mrs Peck added: “I want to say ‘thank you’ to the public for support and donations, because we have had a nice response from people wanting to help.”

A couple more Syrian families are due to arrive in Suffolk before the end of the year.

The charity is still looking for donations of items, time or money as part of the resettlement programme.

Furniture, garden tools, kitchen appliances, bikes, winter jumpers and coats are all needed.

A full list can be found here: suffolkrefugee.org.uk/what-we-do/syrian-resettlement-schemeSRS is also searching for people who can offer accommodation, as well as companies or charities that can provide volunteer work and work placements for newcomers in Ipswich.

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Jodi Peck via: jpeck@suffolkrefugee.org.uk or 01473 400785.