'They wanted me to fight, and I knew I had to
leave, or die.' My translator, a former English teacher from Syria, was
explaining how, after the army knocked on his door one day, he had fled the
country and moved more than 2,000 miles to Liverpool. This was 2018, the bloody
civil war was raging.
Everyone we met in the north west – an old couple, a young family,
single men – had said the same thing. As soon as it was safe, they just wanted
to go home. Now, three years on, thousands of their countrymen are in a far
more precarious situation, sleeping rough in tents and makeshift shelters on
the Belarusian border, as temperatures plummet to below freezing at night.
Earlier this week, Polish police officers and
soldiers deployed flash-bang grenades, riot shields and fired water cannons at
the crowds as they tried to breach the barbed wire fence.