'Stay in Syria' says migrant after wife and seven children drown

Ali Al Sahau warns other refugees not to attempt the crossing to Europe after losing his family.
Ali Al Sahau warns other refugees not to attempt the crossing to Europe after losing his family.PHOTO: BBC
Ali Al Sahau lost his wife and seven children.
Ali Al Sahau lost his wife and seven children.PHOTO: BBC

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - A Syrian migrant has warned other refugees not to attempt the journey to Europe after his wife and seven children drowned.

Ali Al Sahau's vessel sank in the Aegean sea, as he and his family tried to escape the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria  (ISIS) militant group for a new life in the West.

Smugglers told him they would not need life jackets because the boat was safe and the crossing to Greece would take just 15 minutes, he told the BBC.

Breaking down in tears, he says: "Don't take the risk. Don't go by sea. The smugglers are traitors.

"Don't come. Stay in Syria no matter how difficult it is."

The bodies of some of his children have been retrieved from the sea, but other members of his family are still missing.

His eldest was nine and the youngest just 20 days old.

He told the BBC: "I had the most affectionate wife. I took my family out of Syria to escape the killing. 

"My children could have had a future in Europe. But now I've lost my family, my world.' 

The refugee crisis has been described as the worst since the World War II, with more than 3,500 people reported to have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year.

His heartbreaking story comes as new figures revealed the number of migrants claiming asylum in the EU this year is set to pass one million.

A total of 812,705 people claimed asylum in the European Union in the first nine months of 2015, data from the EU statistics agency Eurostat showed on Thursday, putting it on course to top a million for the year.

More than half arrived in the summer months of July, August and September, reaching 413,815 for the third quarter.

Partial data for October showed more than 130,000 claiming asylum that month. In all of 2104, 626,065 people claimed asylum in the EU.

Preliminary data shows roughly 140,000 refugees entered Europe in October and November.

The Eurostat data complement figures from other agencies, such as the EU’s Frontex, which measures the number of irregular crossings it detects on the bloc’s external borders, and U.N. agencies which measure migrant arrivals in Europe.  

Facing the biggest influx of people since World War II, EU leaders have been divided in their responses, threatening the cohesion of the bloc and its open internal border system.

Just over one in four applicants, or 108,305, in the third quarter made claims in Germany, just a couple of hundred more than claims made in Hungary, which responded to the influx in the summer by fencing off its border with non-EU Serbia.  

About a third of all applicants, or roughly 138,000, in the third quarter said they were Syrian, with Afghans, at 57,000, and Iraqis, at 44,000, the next largest groups.  

Eurostat data showed 80 per cent of Iraqis and 75 per cent of Syrians were granted asylum as were 62 per cent of Eritreans in the third quarter.

That compares with 99 per cent of Albanians being refused refugee status, 96 per cent of Kosovars and 77 per cent of Nigerians in the same period.  

Germany rejected half of applicants, France said “no” to 74 per cent, Italy to 60 per cent and Britain to 63 per cent in the July-September period.