Tag Archive for 'afghan'

“Daddy is there a problem with the aeroplanes in Greece? Why aren’t you coming?”

A campaign to reunite families separated between Germany and Greece (5)

In 2016, upon arrival to Greece, life in Moria was unbearable for the little family and their baby. They escaped to Athens where they stayed first homeless and then in a squat

A father in Greece – his wife and two small kids in Germany, one of whom he has never met

This family belongs to Frankfurt!

Waly* is a 29 year old father from Afghanistan. For a year and a half, he has been far from his family. His wife and his two sons live in Germany where they obtained residence permits. One of his sons was born there. Waly has never met him, he has only seen him on video calls. 

When Waly’s wife escaped Greece, their elder son was still a baby. Now he is old enough to talk and he watches the aeroplanes in the sky over Frankfurt. His son asks him,

“Daddy is there a problem with the aeroplanes in Greece? Why aren’t you coming?”

The truth is that is is impossible for Waly to join his family in Germany legally, since they are categorised by authorities on both sides as a ‘separated family’ case.

Also, his wife’s asylum claim was first rejected in Germany, which is another of the most common arguments used in rejections issued by the Germans when asylum seekers in Greece apply for family reunification. 
After taking a private lawyer and appealing before a court his wife got a one year status called ‘Abschiebungsverbot’. With this national humanitarian status issued mostly to vulnerable persons whose deportation is not feasible, family reunion via Dublin or the German embassy is not possible. Waly’s wife has not even been able to obtain a travel document in order to at least visit her husband in Greece and let their kids see their father. 

Life was unlivable for the family when they were together in Greece. They arrived on Lesvos and after six months of frequent experiences of violence in Moria they couldn’t bear it any more. They travelled together to Athens but as they had left the island with a geographical restriction stamp on their cards, they reached the mainland irregularly and could not progress their case.

Since March 2016, when the EU-Turkey Deal was implemented, asylum seekers are forced to stay on the Aegean Islands. Only upon identification of a vulnerability can they move to the mainland, or in cases of family reunification or if their asylum procedure has been concluded positively. Families with children where both parents are present, are not considered ‘vulnerable’ enough.

Upon arrival to the Greek capital, the family’s living conditions did not improve. They were homeless and they had no access to shelter. They couldn’t find support or even food. For two years the family lived in a squat together and eventually decided they had no choice but to use the little money they had left to escape these conditions. 

As they did not have enough money to travel together as a family, Waly’s wife and their son were forced to move to Germany alone. After they left, the squat that the family had been staying in got evicted by riot police. Following that terrifying event, Waly has spent the last year and half in Athens in the same unbearable conditions, but now alone, far from his family. 

Waly has been to many lawyers in Athens but they tell him they cannot help, because the 3-month Dublin deadline has passed and he separated from his wife and child ‘voluntarily’. 

“How is something voluntary, when you have no other choice?? Being far from my family is no life. In Afghanistan we were always scared of dying, but there you die once. Here in Greece I feel I loose myself every day that I am without my wife and my kids. How is it that I have not even met my own child? Last year I tried many times to end my life. Today I understand I must try and stay strong.”


*names changed

“I see my boy growing, but only through the phone.”

A campaign to reunite families separated between Germany and Greece (4)

Small Mohammed* learned to ride a bicycle after his mother left Greece

A father with a 4-year-old boy in Greece – the wife / mother suffering cancer and going through chemotherapy alone in Germany 

This family belongs to Hamburg!

Fereshta* (37) married her husband Habib* (33) in Iran. She was born there as an Afghan refugee. Habib was born in Afghanistan but escaped with his family as a teenager. Life in Iran was hard. Most Afghan refugees in Iran have either temporary permission to stay, which can only be renewed upon payment of fees, or remain undocumented. While Fereshta had a six-month residence permit, her husband was without any documents and so was their child upon birth. After their marriage, Habib was arrested twice and deported back to Afghanistan, where he is in danger until today. 

In 2017 Fereshta fell ill. Her breast became more and more swollen and painful. She had no health insurance and so it took months until Habib could collect enough money to pay for the expensive examination at a local hospital. The diagnosis was bad. She had breast cancer. Desperate to save his wife, Habib worked every day and borrowed money to finance the chemotherapy she urgently needed. One day, on their way back from the hospital, the couple were controlled by police who wanted to arrest Habib and deport him once again. Fereshta cried and begged the officers to let him go because she was sick. The family had to bribe the Iranian police to escape.

After this incident, it was clear to Fereshta and Habib that they could no longer stay in Iran. They took their small child and fled. In the mountains at the border to Turkey the Iranian border police detected their group. They let the dogs loose on them. Fereshta and her family ran. She took the bag and her husband their child. The police shot. She can still hear the sound of the bullets. She remembers the stones and bushes they had to cross through in panic.

“Every moment I thought, this bullet will hit me. On our way to Europe there were many moments like this one, when I thought it was our last. In between there were the moments I felt the pain in my body so strong and I remembered the cancer.”

Seven times the family tried to cross to Greece. Every time the Turkish police would arrest and detain them. Fereshta remembers with terror a week they spent in Izmir detention centre.

“Upon arrival, we were all body searched. The officer was shocked when she touched my breast. It felt like a stone. We were three families in one cell. We could not go out. I had my painkillers in my bag but I was not allowed to take them. I was sitting awake all night suffering. After a week, they brought a doctor. Then we got released…”

On our final attempt to reach Greece, our boat almost sank. There was a hole in it. Water was entering. It was the beginning of winter 2018 and the weather was bad. In the last moment we were saved. They brought us to Moria camp. I told them about my sickness. The doctor who examined me also got scared when she felt the state of my breast. I was sent to hospital for examinations. We stayed in a container with three families – a total of eleven people in one room. Then the UNHCR sent us to Athens to live in a house.”

Two months after arriving to Greece, Fereshta was examined again, this time in Athens. Her chemotherapy started. But it did not have the expected effects. The mother felt very sick and radiotherapy had to be initiated.

“The doctors said I needed an operation. I would receive a call to know when my appointment was. No one called. Meanwhile my teeth were hurting me a lot. I asked for help. My days were marked by visits to the hospital. I had to go there many times without a translator. Sometimes I was sent away, because they couldn’t understand me. It was not easy.”

Habib was scared and felt helpless. He didn’t know if his wife was receiving the treatment she needed and if it was in time. He didn’t want to lose her. His friends all told him that it would be better to send her to Germany to be healed. What to do? There was not enough money to go together. They had spent everything they had for treatment and medication in Iran and then to reach Greece. On the other hand, he didn’t want to leave her alone. The parents decided together that there was no other solution. They had to do everything possible to make sure she had the best medical care.

In September 2019, after almost one year in Greece, Fereshta arrived in Germany. She was examined by specialists and within just a few weeks she had an operation. Even today she must continue to undergo chemotherapy. Her asylum application was accepted on humanitarian grounds with a deportation ban (Abschiebungsverbot). She is legally resident in Germany now, but she didn’t get an international protection status and thus can only apply for family reunification based on humanitarian grounds. 

For more than two years, Germany routinely rejects such family reunification applications if the family member in Germany has Abschiebungsverbot, typically arguing that the first instance asylum procedure has been concluded negatively. At the same time, Germany in the majority of cases of Afghan asylum seekers issues only this Abschiebungsverbot status. 

Fereshta and Habib struggle hard despite the little hope to find a solution to be together.

“My therapy plan is scheduled to go on until 2021. Every week I have chemotherapy. It is tough to bear it. The worst thing is that I am alone and that my child and my husband are far from me. Every day we talk on the phone. My boy cries. He asks me when he can come to me. He makes plans for that day. I see him growing, but only through the phone. He learnt to ride a bicycle since I last saw him. He wants me to buy him a bicycle when he comes to me in Germany. It is difficult to deal with this situation alone. I had many bad thoughts. Then I started visiting a psychologist. I take medication to sleep now.”

It is now three years that Fereshta’s husband Habib has had the pressure of finding a way for his wife to heal. Since they reached Greece he suffers from constant headaches.

“Now she is in good hands and has proper medical care but I am not by her side to support her. Our child misses her. He needs his mother. We both cannot sleep. I am thinking a lot. It’s the pressure of life. My sick wife is there, we are here. Our son doesn’t believe me anymore, when I tell him we will soon be with his mother. He has lost his trust in his father. I still try to give him hope.” 

A few hundred kilometres north from her husband and child, Fereshta tries not to lose hope as she struggles to survive.

“I wish to be healthy. I wish for my husband and my child to come here soon. I wish for us to have a peaceful and normal life together. I wish that no family in this world will get separated!”

* names changed

“Home is where your family is – together!”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (2)

Massoud* (17): “When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent.”

A mum and a dad with three young kids in Greece – their 17-year-old son alone in Germany

This family belongs to Hannover!

Morteza B.* (37) from Afghanistan escaped his country after the lives of his family were threatened. He arrived to Greece with his wife and four children shortly before the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’ was implemented at the end of February 2016. After a few months feeling unsafe in a Greek emergency refugee camp near Athens, the family tried to continue their flight through the Balkans.

More than ten times they were intercepted and unlawfully pushed back to Greece. Once they finally reached Serbian soil, they were intercepted again and pushed back arbitrarily to Bulgaria, where they had never been before.

In winter 2016, after a week-long odyssey, they were finally returned from Bulgaria to Greece. Left with no money, they saw no option but to send their eldest son Massoud* (now 17 years old) to Germany, where they thought he would be safe, as he had been the one along with his father threatened most in Afghanistan.

Their family reunification application was never sent by Greek authorities despite repeated promises. Instead after two years in Germany and despite having claimed asylum there, Germany attempted to return the family’s minor son back to Greece. When Greek authorities refused to take him back, he was allowed to continue his asylum procedure in Germany. He finally received a one year national humanitarian status (Abschiebungsverbot). He is legally resident in Germany and goes to school there ever since. But he is alone.

“Our son was almost kidnapped in Afghanistan. Masked men were waiting for him in front of his school. After this terror, we had to take our kids from school to keep them safe. We fled to Greece. We tried for months to move onward all together through Macedonia and Serbia as we felt unprotected among the hundreds of other Afghans around us.

On our way, we got illegally returned more than a dozen times. We were beaten, pushed by border guards, soldiers and police; our phones got stolen. We were forced to cross through the freezing waters of a river and were kept detained in Bulgaria for two months in miserable conditions and without being able to even go out.

Back in Greece, after our son reached safety in Germany and when we informed the Greek Asylum Service that we wanted to apply for family reunification they just told us they would send it but we had to wait. Every time we renewed our papers, they’d say the same pushing our patience beyond its limits. Until that day I will never forget, when they suddenly said: “No! We will not send your family reunification request. You will have your asylum procedure in Greece.” I felt I was breaking.

Me and my wife still try to understand that we will have our asylum interview in Greece in one year, exactly five years after we reached Europe, when we will have been separated far away from our son for 3 1/2 years already.

We still live in this refugee camp, a container village in an industrial area. My wife is suffering from severe psychological problems for years, she has therapy and takes medicines. Her situation worsened after the violence we faced at Europe’s borders, but her health is devastated since our eldest child is so far from us.

We have a few neighbours that have been with us all the time in the camp – they have created little gardens on the dusty soil. But I cannot think of putting even one plant in this earth, as we cannot build anything like ‘home’ when one of us is missing.

Home is where your family is – together!” 

On the other side of the continent, up in the North, the 17-year-old Massoud* is counting the days to see his family again.

“I miss my family. I wish they come here to live with me in a house. When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent. There was no language lessons, no school. I was very scared to go out alone. When my parents decided I had to move to Germany alone, I was only 13. They were scared to let me go and I was scared to travel alone, but I was more scared to stay in Greece.

I speak every day on the phone with my family. I want to give them strength. The good thing about Germany is that I am not afraid to go out and that I can go to school again. In my future I want to become a cook. I learned cooking by myself when I arrived in Germany and I had to take care of myself. My mum often cries when we talk on phone, but she is happy that I learned to cook, because she doesn’t need to worry about me being hungry. She knows I can fill my stomach now with tasty food.”

* names changed

Hunger Strike in Elliniko Camp

On 5th February 2017, most of the adults among the 711 refugees residing in a state-run Camp in the former Athens National Airport (Camp Elliniko II), in the majority coming from Afghanistan, started a hunger strike to protest against their degrading living conditions demanding for their transfer to homes, papers and freedom of movement for all. As reported by one of the refugees, it is very likely that residents of the two other camps in Elliniko (the nearby Olympic baseball and a hockey stadiums) might join in the protest tomorrow.

Hunger strike starts in Elliniko Camp

Among the 1,600 refugees living in the three camps of Elliniko there are some who are there already since one year. Elliniko Camp was opened already back in autoumn 2015, in a period where thousands were arriving to Greece and many stayed homeless in the parks and squares of Athens. Planned as a temporary solution to ‘clear’ the capitals’ streets from the many homeless and repeatedly announced to be closed as belonging to one of the most infamous camps in Greece, it still stayed open until today, but always portrayed as ‘provisory’ under the UNHCR-category ‘informal site’.
Continue reading ‘Hunger Strike in Elliniko Camp’

Refugees on hunger strike

In Samos hot spot and corinth pre-removal detention center refugees are protesting devastating living conditions and lacking access to asylum procedures as well as long waiting periods.

copyright: Hessam Ghafelpour

On 31st January refugee from Iran and Afghanistan in the hot spot in Samos started a hunger strike protesting against the long lasting asylum procedures, inhuman detention conditions and the restriction of their freedom. On the second day, one of the strikers

watch the strike here

copyright: Generation outside of Afghanistan

Yesterday detained refugees in Corinth pre-removal detention centre denied to eat lunch and dinner in protest against the bad detention conditions and lack of access to the asylum procedure. According to refugees, some of the detainees have been more than six months in detention. They suffer from bad food and the lack of warm water amongst others. Mainly people from Pakistan and Algeria are detained in Corinth these days. The refugees on hunger strike demand first of all their freedom.

interview from Corinth

Larissa: Letter from Afghan refugees in former Roca factory to the authorities and the UN

prosfyges-roka-larisaAbout 400 refugees from Syria and Afghanistan are currently hosted in the tent camp near the former Roca factory in Larissa half of which are children. Now refugees sent a letter demanding for better conditions.

15/3/2016

To: Representatives of United Nations, the Mayor of Larissa city and his assistants, the Head of Police of Larissa and the representative of volunteers people of Larissa

We – Afghans refugees – resided in Pireaus port of Athens city under Mr. Satery’s management. After a few days responsibles of the camp promised us that we would be transfered to a camp in some building in Larissa city which has sanitary facilities like bathrooms, showers and so on but unfortunately, they lied to us. That’s why refugees don’t believe responsibles and top brass of Greece goverment. Continue reading ‘Larissa: Letter from Afghan refugees in former Roca factory to the authorities and the UN’

“We need a solution!” – Refugees protest in front of Schisto camp

20160314_130847_resized_1“We need a solution!”, says Mohamed an afghan refugee who protest together with other refugees from Afghanistan in front of the camp Schisto in Attika Region. “Our papers are to expire! We demand from the Greek government to renew them for one month more. Otherwise we will get illegalised and they might detain us here or even deport us back”, he says.

Along the protesters is also a woman from Afghanistan, who is trying to describe the situation inside the camp, inside the big tent where she and her children are sleeping. “The wind blows through the tent. There is no heating. Lately rain water entered the tent. Each of us has just two blankets in order to warm herself in the night. We are freezing! How can I survive with my children under these conditions?”, she says. Next to her is a couple of very elderly refugees also from Afghanistan and a young woman with a serious health problem. She can be fed through a tube that is in her stomach. “The doctors here told me to solely drink water.” Continue reading ‘“We need a solution!” – Refugees protest in front of Schisto camp’

EUs new Gatekeeper Turkey burning life-vests of refugees

copyright: Salinia Stroux

copyright: Salinia Stroux

The last few days hundreds of refugees were caught on the Turkish mainland, along the western coast and in Turkish territorial waters while trying to set over to Greece clandestinely. Among the refugees who come mainly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 30% children. Whilst getting intercepted, sometimes detained or directly send back to Izmir and Istanbul, the authorities take away their life-vests. Many refugees report that the Gendarmes even burned, while telling them that: “We do that so you wouldn’t try again!”

In some occasions refugee dinghies intercepted in the Aegean Sea even were threatened by Turkish coast guards that they would shoot their dinghy if they don’t go back.

Consequently, most refugees when trying again to set over have no money left to buy new life-vests while most of them cannot swim neither.

Refugees will not stop fleeing to Europe despite NATO, Frontex, Coastguards, the usage of Drones, war ships or helicopters to locate, intercept and return them. They will not stop at barbed wire or in front of armed soldiers who are blocking their ways. As long there is war, people will move on, no matter what.

An Afghan father indicates with a movement of his hand the dinghy bopping to the left and the right in the water: “It is life, or death. But there is only one road to chose.” Next to him stands his 10-year-old son. A few meters aside four small Afghan boys play “escaping from police”. The mum of one of them who is in the second month pregnant sits beside in the park feeling desperate. She is bleeding since six days, but she cannot stay in hospital as she was strongly advised by the doctor, because the family of four has to chose for the lives of all, not only for hers and the babies. Her husband cannot hold his tears, as he feels responsible for all of them, but still has to take difficult decisions.

Tonight we witnessed more than four families starting their dangerous trip over the sea without any life-vests. They had a 3 months old baby among them and two pregnant women. Yesterday there were more than five families we happened to know with more than 15 children – one of them handicapped, another only 6 months old. And these are only the ones we accidentally got to know during a random day at a random place. One random stormy night in Turkey…

“open the borders!” – refugee protests increasing in Greece

+Currently about 22,000-25,000 refugees trapped in Greece+ Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas estimates it can become 70,000 within one month if borders don’t open again+In Idomeni and Athens refugees protest daily and demand the opening of the borders*

Protest against closure of border 28. February in Victoria Square

Protest against closure of border 28. February in Victoria Square

The UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on February 26, 2016 voiced concern about increasing border restrictions in the Balkans and Austria for migrants and refugees streaming towards Europe “calls on all countries to keep their borders open, and to act in a spirit of responsibility sharing and solidarity, including through expanding legal pathways to access asylum,” his spokesman Dujarric said.
Continue reading ‘“open the borders!” – refugee protests increasing in Greece’

“We cannot survive here!” – Refugees desperate to flee humanitarian crisis in Greece

1“We cannot survive here! Please reopen the border! We have disabled people with us, babies, and pregnant women. In Greece there are no facilities!”, says Mohsen from Afghanistan. Sitting next to him in a wheelchair is his 85 year old father, who collapsed. Some meters away -on a blanket on the ground sits the rest of the 11-member family. They came from the city of Herat in Afghanistan. “Our plan is to go to Germany, to start a safe life there. But now I cannot think anymore. I am totally confused”, says Mohsen.

The famous Victoria Square where thousands of refugees all over the world passed the last years during their risky trip to northern Europe, looks like a war zone. Since last Sunday when the Western Balcans under the instructions of Austria decided to close the border for any refugees other than Syrians and Iraqis, this small square in the heart of Athens, is again the symbol of the failure of European migration policies. It shows in the most painful way how unprepared Europe was to this hugest refugee movement since second world war. More than 25,000 refugees were hemmed in Greece according to estimations on Saturday the 27th of February. All over Greece refugees sleep in parks, they are homeless heading on foot northwards. At the the same time, approximately, another 2,000-3,000 refugees arrive daily to Greece. Continue reading ‘“We cannot survive here!” – Refugees desperate to flee humanitarian crisis in Greece’

The infomobile

... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

Get in touch

email: infomobile.w2eu@gmail.com

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