Best of 2016: Why Are Syrian Refugees Interested in Learning to Swim?

Jordan's swimming pools have witnessed a spike in Syrians attending classes as many prepare for the deadly journey across the Mediterranean

Syrians in Jordan are taking an interest in attending sports clubs to learn to swim as they prepare to undertake the journey to seek refuge by sea.

“Sharif,” the owner of a sports venue, has noticed high demand among many Syrian refugees for attending the clubs, with their activities limited to taking swimming lessons. After speaking with some of them, he learned the reason was that some of them wanted to try to immigrate by sea.

“Usually we close the pool during winter, but considering that so many have registered for swimming lessons, and that most of them are Syrian refugees, we kept the classes open,” Sharif said.

The owner of a private pool, who asked that his name not be published, said: “We receive the men in one period and the women in another period. Since I’m in charge of registering participants in the swimming courses, I noticed that entire families were signing up. The father would come with the sons, and the mother would come with the daughters. We also had a few elderly people.”

An official in another sports club said the issue had not drawn his attention at first, and he did not think about why there was such high demand among refugees registering for swimming lessons. But after speaking with them, it became clear to him that they were trying to plan their journey by sea to seek refuge abroad.

One refugee did not deny his intent to travel by sea, or that he was trying to learn to swim to try to reduce the risks of the journey, despite knowing that simply learning to swim would not save him if the boat were to sink.

The young man, Mohammed, said: “It never occurred to me that one day I might think of putting my life in danger, but two reasons encouraged me to take this step. First, many have survived, and second, the life I live now is like death, because it has no future.”

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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