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Syrian family flees to Sicily

Atlanta (CNN) Crammed into rickety, old fishing vessels — 450 people, including children, giving up everything to try and make it across the Mediterranean.

The conditions were deplorable. They went days without anything to eat or drink.

After days at sea, an Italian ship rescued all on board — people fleeing Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Syria.

They streamed off, finally on solid ground in Europe at the Sicilian port of Augusta.

They were tired, but alive.

sicily port

Hiba, her husband and four children left their home in the war-torn Syrian city of Homs.

Cots in a crowded and noisy reception center is where they’ll stay for now.

“Anyone who takes such a decision is very desperate,” Hiba said. “We either survive together or die together.”

Her nine-year-old daughter makes a playful heart sign after the rescue — but she just as readily recounts the horrors she’s witnessed to get here.

“My life was nice,” she said. “I was studying and had a nice school, but we were bombed while at school.”

Her 15-year-old brother was the one who asked their parents if they could flee.

“Our last hour, we were sitting at home and the two sides were fighting each other. They were killing each other. There were many dead people on the street,” he said.

This family survived the harrowing trip. Thousands of other migrants did not.

“One day the sea was so rough,” Hiba said, “I covered my head. I didn’t want to see whatever was about to happen to us.”

Her daughter said, “I felt so trapped that I couldn’t move or do anything.”

This family of six is just a tiny fraction of the more than three million Syrians who have fled their country since the start of the civil war.

“All I want is to educate my children,” Hiba said. “They are my hope.”

Written and produced by: Ben Bamsey for “CNN Newsroom.”

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