Migration and Struggle in Greece

Emigrating Afghans: no crisis in the smuggling business in a destroyed country

Posted by clandestina on 5 July 2009


Afghans Flee Hell at Home & Newspapers

CAIRO — Many Afghans, young and old, are forking over their life savings to be smuggled into Europe in pursuit of a better life away from the death and destruction plaguing their county.

“People can’t find jobs here,” Abdul Ahad, 26, told the New York Times on Sunday, July 5.

“And if you go to a place where there’s work, you’ll be killed in a week.”

Abdul Ahad was laid off from his full-time driving job and forced to take the only work he could find: a once-a-week driving gig through a dangerous Kabul territory.

In the past eight months, a suicide bomb and a firefight nearly took his life.

“I’m desperate.”

He began scouting potential smugglers to take him elsewhere in the world, where he hopes to find a life.

“It’s not a big dream. I just want to finish my studies and live normally.”

He is one of many Afghans who gave up hope after years of war, death and poverty, losing faith in their shaky government.

“We’ve got a president called Hamid Karzai who has done nothing for Afghan people,” fumes Shuja Halimi, a Kabul resident with three children.

Eight years on after the US invasion, Afghanistan is so destitute and undeveloped that most inhabitants have no central heating, electricity or running water.

According to aid agencies, violence has surged over the last three years with more than 2,500 people killed until the first six months of 2008.

Lesser Evil

Afghan smugglers say the number of “clients” is up 60 percent from last year and business is so thriving that they even turned away some customers.

“It’s out of my power to deal with the demand,” one smuggler in Kabul told the NY Times.

“I never imagined it would get like this.”

The most common route for smuggling Afghans is by road from Iran via Turkey to Greece and costs around $16,000.

Once in Europe, Afghans apply for asylum most often in the United Kingdom, Greece and Italy.

Last year, about 18,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe, a figure nearly double the 2007 total.

But immigration experts affirm that Afghans do not often find a better life outside their country.

In France, for example, an immigration detention complex dubbed the Jungle is keeping about 600 Afghans in conditions that are “very, very bad,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization for Migration in Geneva.

Halimi, the Kabul father, has a personal experience.

He was deported from the UK after a two-month journey across 12 countries, including Bulgaria, where he says he eluded gunfire at the border.

He insists that while living conditions in Europe were awful, but not as bad as in Afghanistan.

That’s precisely why many war-weary Afghans prefer the struggle abroad to the at home.

Akbar Khan, who was among 30 young Afghans returned from England recently, is one of them

But despite the struggle he endured, he is vowing to try again.

“We’ll try to go back in about a month after we save some money.”

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