Red tape strands Syrian family at Moscow airport for 7 weeks

The Ahmads, a Syrian refugee family, has been stranded at a Moscow airport for nearly seven weeks. (The Moscow Times)

The Ahmads, a Syrian refugee family, has been stranded at a Moscow airport for nearly seven weeks. (The Moscow Times)

A Syrian refugee family has been stranded in a Moscow airport for nearly seven weeks—safe from ISIS but stuck in a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape.

The Ahmads and their four children have been camped out in an old smoking room in Sheremetyevo airport’s Terminal E transit zone since Sept 10, the BBC reported this week. Officials accused them of using fake passports to enter the country. They were denied asylum, prompting an appeal which could take months to resolve.

“This is transit for one hour, for two hours,” the eldest son, 12-year-old Rinas said. “But ours is for 40 days. And what it will be, we don’t know.”

The family sleeps on inflatable mattresses, but only one hasn’t burst.

“Sometimes we are cold,” Rinas told the BBC. “At night time it is very cold.”

Rinas’ siblings, two boys and a girl, are 8, 7 and 3. Their father Hasan Ahmad is a musician from a Kurdish region in Syria. They decided to leave for Russia when ISIS extremists got too close for comfort where they were living in Northern Iraq.

Hasan's wife Gulistan Shaho has a sister who lives in Russia.

The stress has taken its toll on the family, the BBC reported. Shaho collapsed and was rushed to the hospital a week ago.

“We left our homes, everything,” she said in a distraught voice. “We just wanted to live in peace like other people. But they refused us asylum. The said this is not Europe.”

She told The Moscow Times the family is surviving on pre-cooked food prepared by her sister. The transit zone restaurants are too expensive, she said.

"I wanted to go to the parenting room with my small daughter, but they would not let me in because I did not have my passport and boarding card. The border guards took our passports," she told the paper.

This week the family slept at a hotel in the airport transit zone thanks to an anonymous donor, the BBC reported.

The days in limbo have left Hasan Ahmad frustrated.

"They have left us here for more than 40 days. It's not humane!" he told the BBC. "Russia can drop bombs in Syria no problem. It costs millions. We are one family. Can they not help us?"