Massieh, Majeed and Zabihalleh are three young refugees from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Sweden. After all their applications being rejected three times by the migration board, they could now be sent back to Afghanistan any day. To protest against the Migration Board’s decision, they have been camping in Malmö’s Jesusparken and Folketsparken for over eight weeks now. On the 11th of March, they met with Malmö Högskola students at a UF event to share their stories and explain their situation. The Pike & Hurricane spoke to them about why they left Afghanistan, their journeys to Sweden and their hopes for the future.
Q: Why did you flee Afghanistan?
A: Because I got into trouble with the Taliban. My father was very rich. He had a bus company in Ghazni. That’s why, the Taliban wanted money from him. Around $3000 a month, but my father didn’t pay them. So one day, 5 years ago they came to our house at midnight. They attacked us in our sleep and told us this was our last chance.
After that night, we were scared, so my father decided to go to Kabul to escape the Taliban. We lived there for 5 months, but they found us. We first went to the police, but you know the police can’t do anything in Afghanistan. They told us that the Taliban was too strong and that they couldn’t help us. So my father decided that our family had to leave.
Q: Where did you go?
A: We first flew to Turkey, so that we could travel to Greece from there. We didn’t have a visa though, so we found someone to make fake passports for us. My family however got caught at the airport by the Turkish police. I was the only one who could pass the controls because I spoke English.
Q: So you were on your own? How did you survive?
A: Yes. I spent six months in Greece. During all this time I was living like a homeless person, everyone there was. I got some help from friends, from strangers… I got food from the garbage, every day I would go through the garbage. I was just sleeping in the park… After 6 months I couldn’t take it anymore so I decided to go to Sweden because that is where my mum originally wanted to go.
Because I did not have any money, the only option I had was walking. I checked the route on the map: it was Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. I had some friends and I told them that they should come too, but they asked me: “Are you crazy Massieh? Are you joking?” They told me it would be impossible to walk all this way, but I did it! I was on the way for two years. The only time I took a train was from Trieste. I simply did not have money for more.
Q: How did you manage to do this?
A: I was again sleeping outside and taking food from the garbage. Some people helped me. A family saw me and asked: “What are you doing here? You are just a child!” So I told them what had happened and that I wanted to go to Sweden. They gave me food, some money and water.
In Slovenia, they caught me once. This is why, when I first got here three years ago, Sweden, because of the Dublin II regulations, wanted to send me to Slovenia. But I told the migration board that Slovenia would send me back to Afghanistan and that it was too dangerous for me.
Q: Does Sweden still want to send you back to Slovenia?
A: No, Sweden is now responsible for my case, but I got my third negative from the migration board already which means they now want to send me back to Afghanistan. The people who work for the migration board told me that they believed the story of what had happened to me in Afghanistan, but they also said: “Afghanistan is now good, it’s safe, you can go back. I asked them: “Then why are Swedish people told not to go to Afghanistan?” The Swedish government and many others tell their citizens not to go, because it wouldn’t be safe for them.
Q: Why did you choose Sweden?
A: Because my family wanted to go there. My father always said: “When we go to Sweden, you can go to school there. Their education system is very good. After the police had caught them in Turkey, I thought maybe they would also come here, but they didn’t. The last time I heard from them was a year ago, when my mum called me from Pakistan. I could only speak to her for two minutes, because she cried and I cried too. She told me that the Turkish police had sent them to Afghanistan, but because they couldn’t stay there, they fled to Pakistan. She said she was going to call me again, but she never did.
Q: Do you know what happened to your family after the call?
A: I don’t, but I hope they are not in Afghanistan because it’s dangerous. To the Taliban it doesn’t matter how old you are or who you are, if they have a problem with you, they will find you. It’s so easy for them.
Q: Have you had any problems with far right groups in Sweden?
A: No the people here are very nice. They helped me a lot. In other countries the people haven’t been this nice.
Q: What do you hope to get out of your protest?
A: I hope immigration gives us another chance to be here. Every night we go to sleep we think about what is going to happen tomorrow or the day after but it is so difficult to live like that. I kept asking the officials: “If I wasn’t in trouble in Afghanistan why would I choose to live like this? Without money, without anything”… Afghanistan is too dangerous for me.
Q: Is there anything you may want to share with the students of Malmö University?
A: You have spent about 20 minutes here in the camp, but this is what the last 5 years of my life have looked like. It is very difficult. Imagine this: You have everything here, friends, family, a job, your school and then you lose everything in the blink of an eye. You close your eyes, you open them again and you have nothing.
Abdul Majeed Niazi, 28 years old
Q: When and why did you leave Afghanistan?
A: I left Afghanistan almost two years ago with my family, so I’m here with my wife and my two children, one of which was born here. I left because I got into trouble with the Taliban. I was working in Kabul International Airport in a duty free shop, as a sales officer. I could go in and out of the airport without any control. Because of this, the Taliban wanted me to help them. They wanted me to take some tools inside the airport, but I already knew that they were up to no good. I didn’t want to put thousands of civilian lives in danger, so the only other option was for me and my family to flee from Afghanistan.
Q: So you suspected that the Taliban was planning an attack on the airport?
A: I know they did. During the Karzai regime nothing happened in the airport. But after we had already left, there was an attack on the airport. You can probably find it on YouTube. It happened on the 10th of June 2013.
Q: Can you tell me about your journey here?
A: Me my wife, who was pregnant at that time, and my oldest daughter got here via Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, Denmark and then Sweden. We entered the EU illegally when we travelled from Turkey to Greece by water in very small boats. In each boat there were about 25 people. One of them sank and my daughter, who was two at the time, almost drowned. She still has health problems because of all the water that she swallowed during that incident.
Q: How long have you been in Sweden and what is the current status of your asylum application?
A: We have been living here for 16 months and we have received the third negative from the migration board. It applies to all of us. So now our case is with the police and we could be deported anytime.
Zabihalleh Neideem, 21 years old
Q: When and why did you leave Afghanistan?
A: It was in 2007. I used to live in a province called Faryab, but my family had problems with warlords there. 20 years ago, during the Mujahadin regime, they killed a brother of my father and two members of his family. When the Karzai government took over my father, who was a judge wanted to bring them to justice. When they found out that my father was going to take them to court, they asked him to stop, but my father didn’t. So they killed my sister. We found her body 10 days later. We knew who did it, but the police couldn’t do anything because these people control everything. My father still didn’t stop the prosecution, so one night they came to our place, killed my father with a gun and attacked me. They stabbed me, close to my heart so they thought I was dead. Fortunately I am still alive, but I lost my family, I lost everything.
Q: What happened after they attacked you?
A: I was only 14, so my mom who was the only one left from my family at that time, told me that we had to leave. She first took me to Kabul, where we stayed in a hospital for 5 days. But it was too dangerous for us there, so she took me to Pakistan. I was there for about a month again in a hospital, and once I was a little better my mother sent me to Iran. From there I went to Turkey and then Greece. I got deported from Greece to Turkey twice. The Greek police was really bad. They took everything from me and then sent me without anything back to Turkey. Because I also lost my phone and everything I lost contact with my mom after that and haven’t talked to her ever since. I have requested information from the Red Cross to help me find her, but nothing so far.
Q: How did you live in Greece?
A: It was very difficult. I didn’t have a home. In the summer we just lived in the park and during the winter I and a few other people would all collect some money to get a spot in a room shared with 20 to 30 people. I was in Greece for a few years, but if you don’t have papers it is impossible to do anything. When the situation for refugees got even worse I decided to leave and have been in Sweden for 14 months now.
Q: If you were allowed to stay in Sweden, what would you like to do?
A: I want to study and to have a safe life, a bright future. When I was a child I wanted to be an economist. But I haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. But I hope I will get the opportunity to continue pursuing my dreams.
Q: Is there anything you would like to share with the students at Malmö University?
A: Yes, I want to ask them to support us. This is something that the Swedish people can’t change. They can change everything if they want to. We are in danger. This is a matter of life and death and nothing else. If Sweden tells their citizens not to go to Afghanistan, what is the difference between the Swedish people and me, between the Swedish people and us? They tell us it is safe, but still, the Swedish embassy remains closed in Afghanistan because of the security situation in the country.
By Jon Miren and Annika Schall
Picture 1: IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Picture 2 & 3: Josh Zakary, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Picture 4: Photo Unit, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Picture 5: Gustave Deghilage, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0