Copyright: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Copyright: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

Is a better future worth all the trouble that refugees take to reach Europe? Yasir, a Pakistani refugee in his late twenties, has been grappling with this question ever since he came to Germany, enduring a long journey filled with struggle and loneliness.

My name is Yasir. I am from Peshawar, in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. I came here thinking that my life would change for the better. My father repeatedly pleaded with me to not leave Pakistan. I came here around a year and eight months ago.

I took a plane from Pakistan to Turkey and then went to Bulgaria by foot and then came to Germany via Serbia. My family gave me the money for the trip, somewhere around $10,000.

I applied for asylum here but I did not appear for the interview. Around three months back I told the officials that I was withdrawing my application. Meanwhile they also gave me an appointment for the interview [at the asylum office] but I did not attend it. I told them that I wanted to go back.

We have a clothes business back home. Some of my cousins moved to Europe many years ago and they live in Norway. I thought it would be nice to see how things worked here, but when I reached I realized that at the end, your homeland is your homeland and there is no point being alone here.

Being alone is a thing by itself and we human beings are not meant to be by ourselves all the time. What can you do alone anyway?

I had never left home [Pakistan] before this, I didn't know what loneliness felt like. When I came here I realized what it meant to feel lonely. Being alone is a thing by itself and we human beings are not meant to be by ourselves all the time. What can you do alone anyway?

I am married and I have a daughter in Pakistan. They need me and that's why I am going back. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, these countries are not Europe, where women have their freedom and can do whatever they want. And that is why my wife and daughter have a problem and they need me. My daughter will be two years old on May 27. I know it will be years before I settle down here - four, five years. But I want to use this time for my family. I haven’t seen them since I left.

I'll see where I can work once I go back. I will join the family business. I haven’t told my family yet that I am coming back. I haven’t told anyone. They are not pressuring me in any way, but I want to go back, because you never know what happens in life. And I don’t even have the proper papers, and if something bad happens I'll be all alone and on my way to Europe I witnessed so many difficult situations...all kinds of people were there, handicapped people, people without legs...

Please don’t come here and spoil your lives. Be happy with what you have.

There is just one message I want to pass on to people who are outside Europe and in Asia, in my homeland, those who dream of going abroad: Please don’t come here and spoil your lives. Be happy with what you have.

Human smugglers, the people we choose to come with, these are people who are not afraid of anyone, not even God. They say, "It's just a two-hour walk and you'll reach" but then once you are on the road, you realize that you have been walking for weeks and your journey is still not over.

When we came from Turkey to Bulgaria, we spent a week in the forests, without food or water. It was very cold and there were women and children in our group. These smugglers say the trip will just take 15-20 days, but these will probably prove to be the worst days of your life. Many people die on the way. I ended up here because I had created fancy images in my mind.

What have I done?

On the way I realized I wanted to go back. The people I was travelling with, some of them didn’t seem to understand that we should behave like humans and that if we all walk slowly, but walk together, we will all reach. But no, there was this attitude of "I'll push you back and go ahead. You may die, but I want to move further." It was a competition. The bigger, stronger ones rushed ahead, the weaker ones, those who could not walk and were almost dying, they received no help.

And then I felt, this is not humanity. I asked myself why we were pushing against each other, abandoning people on the way. What's the point in holding someone back and moving ahead yourself? And I thought, "What have I done?"

When I reached here, things slowly started getting back to normal. The exhaustion from the journey started reducing. I realized, I will settle down here, because the people in Germany are nice and it's a great country that has welcomed us and respected us. But I need five-six years to settle down here and I don’t want to waste so much time.