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The trip could have killed them. But people fleeing economic wreckage in the Middle East say they’d do it 100 times over

Metal rods tower above the people to prop up a giant zinc roof. Azhi, who has splints on his legs, is smiling and wide-eyed. It’s hard to tell that just days before, the boy’s family faced the specter of death.

“We want to go to Germany so Azhi can get an operation,” says his mother, 28-year old Shoxan Hussein. “The doctors said he needs to get it done before he turns five.”

Days later, they returned to their native Erbil, the commercial hub of Iraqi Kurdistan, on an Iraqi repatriation flight. They are already trying to chart a new path into Europe.

“There is no future for my son in Iraq,” Azhi’s father, 26-year-old Ali Rasool, tells CNN from his Erbil home. “Trying to get to Europe is for Azhi. I need a future for my kid.”

Breaking a cycle of misery

Across the Middle East and North Africa, talk of emigration is rampant. Though guns have largely fallen silent in most of the region’s…

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