Afghan refugees

One of the reasons I wanted to work in Afghanistan was my friendship with an Afghan refugee: a personal relationship, a spark of interest. I still do not understand the full story of how he came to Britain aged 16 or so, but I have come to understand his reticence in talking about it.

It seems half the people I have met here have a relative in Europe or the US. Given the conditions in Afghanistan it’s no surprise that people look to these places with a degree of longing. From volunteering with refugee organisations and from knowing the high expectations my friend’s family in Afghanistan had that he would send them money, I have been keen to tell people here that the streets of London and Berlin are not paved with gold.

I have found it hard though to talk of the difficulties asylum seekers face in Europe. Even in English it is difficult to explain why many people there do not look kindly on foreigners, the bewildering laws and bureaucracy. Talking in pidgin English/Dari and mime it has usually been beyond me.

The dank peeling walls of a London bed-sit are so far from here and so far from people’s imaginings of London as seen on TV it seems impossible to describe. Yes, I say, a person can earn more in a month there than they would here in a year, but the cost of bread is 50 Afghanis rather than five, the cost of accommodation so much I feel embarrassed to translate it.

The hospitality I have encountered here has been overwhelming. The contrast with the welcome many Afghans receive in my home country made uncomfortably apparent.

A colleague’s wife’s brother’s son is in London. From the barren, starkly beautiful mountains in central Afghanistan he asked me to call this young man. I did not understand why, and could not think what I would say, but from a place where friends and family count for so much it somehow made sense. It was difficult to hear him over the sound of a bus or heavy machinery coming through the phone. He apologised, said how busy he was at work and that he would call me some other time. Completely understandable now I think about it, at the time I was taken aback, not knowing what to tell my colleague.

I was reminded about a documentary film following a young Sudanese boy in the US. Living in a bad way, when he phoned his family in a refugee camp in Kenya he couldn’t help but lie and tell them how wonderful it all was for him – aware of their expectations and hopes, and embarrassed at his fortune in having got out and achieved what so many others still wanted.

I have sensed from my friend in London how difficult it is to tell his family about his new life. To explain why, as a penniless student forbidden to work legally, he had been unable to send them money. Perhaps harder than that however, to explain the innumerable little things – like not being supposed to take private phone calls while at work – that add up to the cultural divide.

It would be easy to overstate that, to speak of two separate worlds. I met another young man, a refugee in London, who had come back to meet his fiancé for the first time. He stood out a mile in his flash London clothes, was sorry to be leaving the comfort of his extended family to go back to the UK, and seemed to have no difficulty reconciling these two places.

The UK heavy-handedly promotes returns to Afghanistan, while Pakistan and Iran continue to force people out to a home beset by strife. I have often wondered what exactly ‘home’ means, and the challenges of coming back to Afghanistan have been a frequent topic of conversation. I was taken off guard when the conversation fell to people going the other way.

Some days ago another colleague asked for my help. A close relative of his, he told me calmly, a fifteen year old boy, was on his way to England. Does he have a visa I asked, knowing from his expression it was a stupidly naive question before I even asked it. The boy, he continued, was currently in Greece with a dozen other people, all waiting for the onward stage to their journey. It might take a week it might take a month. Could I help him when he arrived? I tried to put the news stories of dead bodies found on trucks out of my mind, only muttering how dangerous the journey was, and instead asked if he planned to go the police, when he arrived, if he had any contacts in Britain. Yes, and yes, and again I didn’t know how to begin to describe the difficulties this lad faced, barely being able to imagine them for myself.

The Taliban have re-occupied the boy’s home village and threatened his family, who have contacts with the wrong people. As a minor they believe he will be allowed to stay in Britain, to get an education, learn English, get a job.

I told my college to tell this boy to go to the police as soon as he arrived. I gave him the contact details of some refugee organisations. I emailed my friend to see what he would say about this person in a situation not unfamiliar to him. I wondered if I should give him my parents’ number, to show the same degree of hospitality and support through distant connections as has been shown to me.

My fear for the boy and despondency for his future combined with a sense of shame at my impotence to help. My Afghan friend in London left at a similar age and through dogged determination is doing well for himself. But he left before the Taliban were ousted, before the policy in Britain changed and Afghanistan became considered a safe country to return to, even if it is still not always a safe country to live in.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

9 Responses to “Afghan refugees”

  1. Fleeing from Boris « harry rud Says:

    […] from Boris I heard recently that after six months the young lad from this post has safely arrived in London to seek refuge, where his troubles will just be […]

  2. ajmal Says:

    dear isr
    pls give me visa,i have lsat my father and mother i insdian embassdy blast

  3. ahmad Says:

    my name is ahmad ahmadi i live here in peshawar pakistan but i am from afghanistan i have lost my family in afghanistan 8 years ago and my age is 16 years old i want to come england and study their and make a better future for my self…………. thank you sir

  4. alireza Says:

    Dear sir
    this is alireza from afghanistan, i want to come to Europe for living and take refugee.
    what must i do?
    can i come to europe without visa and with airplane and when i will receive i will aplication refugee?
    best regards
    Alireza

  5. harryrud Says:

    Dear Alireza, you can try to go to Europe without a visa. Some people die when trying this. If you get to Europe, you can then apply for asylum, to become a refugee. It is very unlikely that you will be given refugee status, and most likely that you will be arrested and sent back to Afghanistan. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, or more positive, but I would not recomend it.

  6. SID Says:

    HEY YES YOU ARE TRUE ……ONE THING I WISH TO TELL U ….I M A AFGHAN HINDU …WWW.AFGHANHINDU.COM OR ANOTHER WEBSITE U CAN KNOW ABOUT US …IN AFGHANISTAN I THINK THEIR IS MUCH MORE PROBLEM WITH THE MINORITY AS THEY THROWN STONES TO OUR TEMPLES IN 1992 WHEN BABRI MAJID WAS DEMOLISHED …I WAS BORN THERE AND WHEN I WAS 2 YEAR OLD WE LEFT FOR INDIA …AND WE PERMANENTLY LIVE HTERE NOW I M 21 YEARS OLD AND NEVER THINK OF DOING ANYTHING LIKE REFUGEE ….IT SHOULD BE SEEN BY UNITES STATES .BY MAKING RECORD OR ALL HINDUS AND MAKE RESERVATION FOR THEM ATLEAST 20% IN GOVT JOBS OR ANYWHERE IN AFGHANISTAN AS WE HAVE SAME SYSTEM FOR MUSLIMS IN INDIA ..HERE MUSLIMS ARE IN CRORES AND IN AFGHANISTAN WE ARE IN THOUSANDS .WHAT I THINK NOT MORE THAN 5000 ….IN AFGHNAISTAN …IN EUROPE HTERE ARE A LOT …AND EVERYWHERE U CAN SEE OUR BROTHERS …IN INDIA ….A LOT IN CHINA …RUSSIA ,,,DUBAI ..UKRAINE …AND MANY OTHER PLACES LIKE AUSTRALIA GERMANY LONDON BELGIUM NETHERLANDS….SO MANY …..I MYSELF LIVE IN MOSCOW…………………………………………PROUD TO BE A AFGHANI HINDU ……

  7. frank Says:

    dear ahmad
    you will never can come to england
    do not wast your time
    do not say or think more to prepare lay
    thanks

  8. Temoor Says:

    Hello dear; this is temoor afghan boy in greece i may say that i dont want to stay in greece , i wana go from here to norway but i cant do it please guide me thanks

  9. Bruce Leimsidor Says:

    Harry,
    I teach European asylum law at the university in Venice, Italy and also work as a counselor in the political asylum program sponsored by the Venice municipal government. I found your post and many of the responses quite useful, since many of the Afghans use the route from Greece into Italy in order to reach Britain; this is, as you state, a very dangerous route, and several Afghan and Iraqi migrants have died or been seriously injured trying this route. I have published articles in the International Herald tribune about this problem.

    What you should know is that if a migrant is a minor (under 18) any immigration official legally must allow him to enter the country and that country must provide him with the care legally accorded to unaccompanied minors in that country. This is sometimes violated, especially in the case of older minors (Italian police routinely, and illegally, return all minors over 15 to Greece), but those under 15 are generally not given any trouble. (Simply maintaining that you are under 15 is not sufficient. Applicants are frequently subjected to a medical examination which will indicate their age.)

    The trouble is that the large majority of Afghan young men, including minors, are sent out by their parents to work in the UK and Europe. The UK seems to be a country of choice for these young me. What I have heard, but have not been able to substantiate to any great extent, is that there are rings of employers, many of whom are immigrants themselves, who exploit the minors (who can’t work legally) and those over 18 who are in the country but do not have legal status or permission to work. Some minors even escape from foster care situations to work in such sweatshops. If you or any of your readers have information on this issue, I would be very grateful to receive it. I can be contacted at . Please feel free to check my Google entry to verify my credentials and interest in this matter.

    Thank you,
    Bruce Leimsidor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: