When an American girl fell in love with a Muslim refugee
In November 2015, Carly Harris was a Mormon college student volunteering at a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Her future love interest, Soufiane El Yassami was fleeing Morocco in hopes of a better life.
Yassami, 25, was frustrated with the lack of opportunities in his country, especially for the growing number of people attaining college degrees.
Having studied industrial refrigeration at a vocational college, Yassami fled to Europe in hopes of finding work. Greece had closed its borders for immigrants from Morocco and the island of Lesbos became a refugee hot spot.
It was at the refugee camp at Lesbos that Harris and Yassami met.
While at camp, they got to know each other. However, Yassami was soon arrested and sent back to Morocco. Worried, Harris sent Yassami a Facebook message who received it while still in jail.
“When she sent me a message on Facebook I was really, really happy. I met a lot of different people who came to the camp, but she was the only one who contacted me, who cared about me,” Yassami told CNN.
The two kept in constant contact and Harris told CNN that one night she almost told Yassami she loved him before realising how crazy that was. “I kept waiting for something to happen, for him to say something, that would make me not like him anymore,” Harris told USA Today.
“And it just never did. He just kept making me like him more and more.”
The couple looked into getting Yassami a travel visa but he did not qualify for one. They also looked into K-1 visa for fiancés but after extensive research found it would not be as easy as they hoped. “We started checking into visa requirements and realised there was no way that he could ever get one,” Harris said.
Harris eventually visited Yassami in Casablanca where he is currently working. She stayed with his family and attended his brother’s wedding.
The couple is concerned their situation will be more difficult seeing US President Donald Trump’s position on immigration.
Harris completes her senior year at the University of Utah this year, after which the couple plans to move to Guinea-Bissau.
While the two are hopeful, Harris accepts the reality surrounding them. “I think about what a world we could live in if instead of building walls and closing our borders, putting them in camps, making them feel like animals, if we just embraced them,” Harris said.
“How much that could change our world.”
You can watch CNN’s video short on the couple below:
This story originally appeared on CNN.