The humans behind the numbers: unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Sweden – part 2

This article is the second part of a series, launched by The Beautiful Wild, on the situation of unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Sweden. (The first part, which contains background information, you can find here.) The aim of the series is to share the thoughts and experiences of some of these individuals, too often obscured behind numbers and terminology like “a wave of refugees”. Material for the series was gathered through social media posts asking for people who wanted to share their thoughts on and experience of being an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Sweden. More than a handful of adolescents responded by sending material written in Swedish that was then translated into English by the TBW team. The stories of these adolescents are their own, springing from each individual’s specific background and context, but taken together, they also tell a story about being a refugee, relevant to all no matter where we live or where we are from.

 


My Story

My name is Arif Moradi and I’m from Afghanistan. In November 2014 I came to Sweden as an unaccompanied minor. I was 16 years old at the time.

I grew up in Helmand, one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan. I didn’t have a proper childhood because I grew up with fear and insecurity. When I was seven I had to become an adult, because at that age huge responsibilities were placed on my shoulders: the responsibility of our animals, the responsibility of my siblings, the responsibility of our land and much more.

When my father was murdered, my mother, my siblings and I had to leave our home, our animals and our land. We even had to leave the body of my dead father behind. It was the first time any of us went outside our village, because as Hazaras – a persecuted minority in Afghanistan – travelling is very dangerous.

Leaving everything behind to flee was so hard I don’t have words to describe it properly. First we went to Quetta, a city in Pakistan. We could not stay there though, because the Hazaras were subjected to just as much cruelty there as in Afghanistan. Every day, terrorists killed Hazaras.

My mother contacted a man who used to live in our home village before he fled to Sweden. He said Sweden was a good and safe country, and recommended we go there. In consultation with this man, my mother decided we would go to Sweden.

By the border between Pakistan and Iran I lost [as in incidentally got separated from] my family. From there I thus continued on my own to Sweden. It took me eight months to get to Sweden. During that time I walked for 27, 28 hours at a time, ate stinking garbage, and drank filthy water. I have been put in prison in different countries. My crime? Trying to save my life. I have found myself in deadly situations and managed to pull out. How? Because I nurtured the hope that one day I would reach a country where I would get rights, opportunities and security.

When I made it to Sweden I got all those rights and opportunities, and I got security. I got to go to school, which I had dreamt about since I was a kid. I got to play soccer in a club, which I wanted so badly. I got good support from the social services and the staff at the housing center where I was placed. I got my own room. I got good food. I got a lot of friends. I got my first girlfriend. I got security. Unfortunately, it all turned out to be temporary.

When I turned 17, the Swedish Migration Agency wrote up my age. In one day I went from 17 to 18, lost my custodian, lost my room at the housing center, lost the support of the staff at the housing center, lost the support of the social services, lost the right to go to school. In one day, I lost all of my security.

I was placed in an apartment for adults. Four other people lived there. They were between 25 and 30 years of age. None of them spoke either Swedish or English. The apartment was really filthy and smelled really bad because the other lodgers smoked drugs inside. I didn’t feel safe there at all, so in the evenings I used to leave the apartment and walk the streets. Many are the times that I have stood outside in the cold, peeking through the windows of the apartment to see if the others had gone to sleep so that I could venture back in and go to bed.

Losing all security and support made me lose the will to live. Two times I tried to commit suicide, but failed. Both times I was saved by someone who took me to the hospital. Both times I had to stay at the hospital for two months.

In November of last year, the Swedish Migration Agency informed me that my application for asylum had been declined. At the same time, they told me that they couldn’t deport me back to Afghanistan because I didn’t have a passport or valid identification documents from there, but that they from now on wouldn’t do anything for me. I was no longer a concern to Sweden. Thus the Swedish Migration Agency canceled my bank account, took my LMA card [the card identifying a person as an asylum seeker and granting them certain rights] and threw me out of the apartment.

Today I live as an undocumented immigrant in Sweden. As such I have no rights. Today the only ones helping me out with a place to stay and food to eat are my friends and acquaintances. I move around between them. It’s hard to live like that, being a human with no rights.

During my life so far, I have been through so very much, but I will never stop fighting for my life. The uncertainty and insecurity surrounding my life is massive. Maybe I will get deported. I don’t know. What I do know is that I will fight it as long as I can.

Since I know how it feels to lose all hope and feel all alone, I want to support the adolescents who risk feeling the same. Those who need help. Those who are afraid. I want to stand with them and be their voice. I truly wish that all those who have come to Sweden from the other side of the world to seek security will be allowed to stay here.

 

– Arif Moradi

Arif Moradi is an 18-year-old guy from Afghanistan who has been deemed a year older by the Swedish authorities. He came to Sweden in 2014 and is currently living as an undocumented immigrant.

Arif Moradi. Photo courtesy of Arif Moradi.

 

Time passes and I count the number of victims Sweden has sent to the Taliban in Afghanistan and the number of people still on the list to be sent there soon. Time passes and I read about yet another suicide in the paper. Time passes and I witness how politicians treat unaccompanied minors who have fled here, away from death, when their hopes were drowned in blood. Time passes and within a year 76 minors have attempted suicide and four of them have succeeded.

 

My name is Fatemeh Khavari. I’m a 17-year-old Afghan girl who attended Språkintroduktionsprogrammet [classes where the Swedish language and other subjects are taught to prepare for upper secondary school]. Soon, I will have been in Sweden for two years. As the chairperson of Ensamkommandes förbund Stockholm [the Association of Unaccompanied Minors Stockholm], I am very engaged with unaccompanied minors who have applied for asylum in Sweden.

Unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Sweden are faced with many different problems that are beyond words. To try to cheer them up I visit different housing centers and bring families along, but unfortunately it doesn’t help. I worry a lot about these adolescents. I don’t know what else I can do for them than to be by their side and help them to the best of my ability.

Unaccompanied minors who suffer mentally don’t need a counselor or a doctor. They just need a secure life filled with love and respect. They want to live like an ordinary person – nothing more.

Now there are many people who stand with unaccompanied minors and fight for their rights. That makes me happy. It makes me happy knowing there are many people struggling for humanity and caring about what is going on in dear Sweden right now.

We must continue our struggle, because there are many unaccompanied minors out there who feel worthless and who commit suicide. We must fight together so that no adolescents are forced to grow up faster than they are supposed to, just because of heartache.

Please, politicians! You don’t know what hopelessness means. You don’t know what loneliness means either. My fellow teenage compatriots know all about it. They know this world is cruel and that you have to fight for your rights in order to get them. They also know that you have to run away from home when the arms trade increases around the world, in order to save yourself from war and explosions.

Last week, my civics teacher asked me what ‘politics’ means. My answer: it means to govern the world in one way or another. Olof Palme argued that politics is to want something and that people who are engaged in politics all have one thing in common: they are driven by a strong desire to influence and improve society. How, then, do we improve society? By deporting minors to dangerous countries? Is that the answer? If not, listen to me!

Don’t let money-grubbing and power-greedy people use the blood of the adolescents in order to gain the highly sought-after governmental power of Afghanistan!

It pains me to know that our unaccompanied minors have lost hope. My classmates call me “lion heart”, but right now I’m too afraid to ask more about the guy who committed suicide. Right now I’m too afraid to think about him at all. I know almost all unaccompanied minors living in Stockholm. Constantly I have to call one of my friends who just got their second denial of asylum from the Swedish Migration Agency, to carefully make sure they are not giving up although they feel really bad.

It is very distressing to know all about the unsettled situation in Afghanistan and at the same time know that Sweden and other European countries send unaccompanied minors back there.

Please, don’t let humanity die! Without humanity, we humans are nothing!

 

– Fatemeh Khavari

Fatemeh is a 17-year-old young woman from Afghanistan. She has been in Sweden for almost two years.

Fatemeh Khavari. Photo courtesy of Fatemeh Khavari.

 

What can we do?

-Draw attention to the situation of unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan seeking asylum in Sweden and elsewhere.

-Show support for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum (and, indeed, for refugees at large).

-Demand that politicians in Sweden and elsewhere change policies that make it difficult for minors who are seeking asylum, and for refugee children.

-Donate to local organizations that are assisting unaccompanied minors and refugees in general.

 

Sample tweet in English:

I support refugee children! @[insert politician] please help protect them and ensure they can find a safe home here! #refugeeswelcome

 

Sample tweet in Swedish:

Ge amnesti till ensamkommande barn från Afghanistan @[valfri politiker]! #AfghanistanÄrInteSäkert

Hanna

Hanna

Hanna is a culture lover of great proportions: film is her hobby and her work; tv-series are her nighttime pleasure; literature is her bad conscience since course books take up most of her reading time; art is her spare time passion; music is her everything. She has an insatiable hunger for traveling and a taste for good food, preferably vegetarian. She is sometimes socially awkward but always socially committed. The perfectionist in her rarely sleeps but judges herself a thousand times harder than others.
Hanna