50-year-old Dhafer Aldoori had to leave his wife and five children behind as he fled Iraq. Since spending more than nine months in Croatia he has been granted asylum and is hoping to finally reunite with his family. Until then he will continue to volunteer with the Red Cross at the Zagreb reception centre.
“I had to flee my home city of Baghdad because of the growing tensions,” says Dhafer Aldoori.
“I’m worried for my family and talk to them every day. I’m hoping that they will be able to join me now that my asylum application has been approved.”
Aldoori is very proud of his children; his eldest daughter is an engineer, another one is a pharmacist, and his eldest son is about to finish his engineering studies. He is determined for his 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to get a complete education as well.
Feeling at home
Aldoori spent six months living at the Zagreb reception centre before he was granted asylum and was able to move around by himself. Now, rarely a day goes by when he doesn’t visit the centre to volunteer his help wherever it’s needed.
“This centre is like a second home to me. When I was living here I used to volunteer and I really enjoy it so I’m still helping with maintenance, translating and anything else needed,” Aldoori says.
The reception centre in Zagreb currently houses more than 500 people mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Croatian Red Cross provides many different services at the centre. As most of the inhabitants are asylum seekers, the activities focus particularly on supporting social inclusion and integration.
“We have language classes, computer rooms, crafts workshops, children’s playrooms, a library, a music room, a gym, and our own football league,” Red Cross team member Marina Mikic (31) says proudly.
“We even have hair and beauty salons for both men and women where they can learn the trade from each other.”
Mikic, an occupational therapist, works mostly with children and young men.
“I help children with learning about the Croatian culture and customs, and help them to prepare for school. I also manage our job centre where around 30 young men gather three times a week to help improve our surroundings including cleaning up, painting walls, shovelling snow and anything else that is needed.”
As for Dhafer Aldoori, who used to work in the construction business, all he hopes for is to find any kind of work.
“I can work as a driver, a builder, with anything really as long as I would be employed.”
“I’m happy here in Croatia and believe that my family and I can have a good future. But until they can join me I’ll be missing them every single day.”