BAGHDAD - The Hadi family dreamed of starting a new life in Miami after fleeing Iraq, but at the end of a two-month journey from Turkey, the family ended up in Colombia.
Family members who left their home town of Aziziyah, southwest of Baghdad, believed they were on their way to North America and boarded a bus after leaving the boat, putting their trust in an Iraqi smuggler who had paid them $ 30,000, said 22-year-old Malik Hadi.
When they finally arrived at a modest hotel, they asked the receptionist: "Are we in the United States? Is this Miami? "He replied," No, this is Colombia, and we are in Cali. "
They then tried to search for the escape but "the man disappeared," an angel says in a broken English, a year and a half after arriving in Buenaventura on the Pacific coast of Colombia, accompanied by her parents, sister and brother.
Colombia is the world's first producer of this drug, and the Iraqi family has come across a large number of drunken homeless people who have lurked in the streets, she said.
"When I talk about Colombia in my country, the pictures of drugs and the mafia are taken exclusively," she says.
After their arrival, her father talked about former cocaine cartel leader Pablo Escobar, saying, "We are in a very dangerous country."
After four days in Cali, the third and most violent city of Colombia, the family, which never spoke Spanish and had a weak English accent, contacted the immigration agencies that had been put in place.
The family decided to go to Medellin to continue its way north, like the thousands of immigrants who cross Colombia on their way to America to embrace the American dream.
The father met at the bus station of an Arabic speaking person who showed him the title of the Islamic Cultural House of Ahl al-Bayt in Bogotá where he finally received the family.
Malak said: "We entered the mosque and it was like a miracle for us," adding that today they would almost stay in the street otherwise.
As she sat on a prayer rug with tears in her eyes, she pointed to the absurdity of the family, which fled the war in Iraq and ended in Colombia, torn apart by a half-century armed conflict.
"Life is impossible in my country ... where many die, including children and young people," the veiled girl said, referring to the Iraqi army campaign, backed by an international coalition, against the militants of a militant organization.
"They kill and kidnap beautiful girls and kill others," she said.
Initially, the family moved to Malaysia to move to Australia, before changing the destination to the United States after its plan could not be achieved. But they were looted by smugglers.
"They took the phones, the passports and the money we had, they took everything!" Said Malak, the only one who agreed to a talk. (...) It was very difficult but I learned a lot and became more mature after this experience. "
Currently, the family lives in a single room with a bathroom and a cupboard, but their bags are still in plastic bags, with their dream of leaving.
Although the Colombian government gave the family refugee status eight months ago, finding work remains difficult for those who do not know Spanish.
Only an angel and her sister Reem earn enough to keep the family, one of them orphaned by a Palestinian girl while the other works in a beauty salon.
Their parents Hussein Hadi and Alaa Hassan wanted to open a restaurant after an association presented them with tables, chairs and a barbecue, but they still needed a sponsor to rent a place. Finished