A shot of Ahmad's burn injuries which he says he sustained in Turkey | Photo: Private
A shot of Ahmad's burn injuries which he says he sustained in Turkey | Photo: Private

Ahmad* is a migrant from Afghanistan. He hopes to reach Norway in order to get an education but has been repeatedly stopped at the Hungarian border. A few weeks ago he was faced with a choice, apply for asylum in Romania, or be sent back to Afghanistan. He has applied but he is adamant he doesn’t want to stay in Romania. He told his story to InfoMigrants:

"I worked with the coalition forces in Afghanistan as an interpreter. I worked there for about seven months. After I worked there I was threatened by anti-coalition forces in Afghanistan. Things got dangerous for me and that’s why I left my country.

I heard from some people close to me that they were looking for me and I had to leave.

I was born in a poor family so I wasn’t able to study. I learned English by myself in my house. I’m 24 now. I was born in Peshawar in Pakistan in a refugee camp. When I was about five or six, after the Americans defeated the Taliban, my family returned to Afghanistan. We were in a village at first. In the day, the village was controlled by the Afghan army but at night it was the Taliban which ruled. That’s why we moved to Kabul, but Kabul is also not safe. Hundreds and thousands of people die in Kabul too.Asad Soori Secondary School, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, 16 April, 2019 © UNICEF/UN0309060/Kokic

'I hope to get to Norway'

I came to Europe alone because it costs a lot of money and we don’t have much money. The journey from Afghanistan to Europe costs thousands of euros, as you know.  I paid €9,500 to get to Serbia and another €5,000 or €6,000 to get to Austria. I borrowed the money from family, cousins and people.

I left Afghanistan in September 2019. My journey is not yet finished because I don’t want to stay in Romania, so it has already taken more than four months. I paid smugglers in Afghanistan to get a visa for Iran. Then I traveled through Iran to Turkey; from Turkey to Greece, then to Macedonia, Serbia, and then Serbia to Romania.Despite numerous obstacles migrants are still hoping to make it to EU countries via the Balkan route | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/ A. Emric

I hoped to go to Norway originally but I’m really not sure about what will happen now. They already have my fingerprints in Romania and I have heard Norway is very strict. I am scared of being sent back to Afghanistan or to Romania. Other people here in the center have told me that they were deported back to Romania from Norway.

When I arrived in Romania they gave me a choice. Leave your fingerprints and apply for asylum or be deported back to Afghanistan. That wasn’t really a choice. I was forced to leave my fingerprints in Romania but I don’t want to stay here. I figured asylum is better than being deported.

'The police hit me on my head and arm'

The Romanian police caught me several times on the Hungarian border. They put me in prison for one night. Then they took me to some kind of immigration office, I’m not sure exactly what it was and they took my biometric data. The police broke my cell phone and took the money I had. The police hit me too on my head and arm.

I have been sending you videos so you can see that the life for refugees and migrants in Romania is pretty difficult. We are in an open camp but we are not allowed to work. They give us no food and no money. There are maybe 400 or 500 people in the four-story building where I am staying in Bucharest. Recently we had no hot water. It is very dirty, awful. It is not fit for human beings. It is pretty cold.A screenshot of the video Ahmad sent in showing the washing facilities and toilets at the center in Romania | Photo: Screenshot from private video sent in by Ahmad

I know that Romania does have problems too. But really, I can only say it is sh*t here, sorry for using such a word. Fortunately we do have water back again but for a few days I couldn’t take a shower.

'I couldn't sleep for four days and four nights'

I have been in this center for a week, before that I was in another center. They say that I will stay here until my case has been processed. One time, before I got in these centers, I was staying in the ‘jungle camp’ near the Hungarian border. It was minus eight degrees and we couldn’t light a fire in case the local villagers spotted it and reported us to the police. I couldn’t sleep there for four days and four nights as it was so cold.

At the end of it I had a huge headache. Then I was caught by the police and brought to these centers.

Some people who work for some organizations here have been very kind. They are cool people. They help us with shoes and food and give us clothes, everything. I don’t know what the organization is called but they have given us everything. From the government side, though, we don’t receive anything. There is nothing positive from their side.

The Romanians know that no one wants to stay here. People are so rude here. I went once and said I have an itching problem [scabies] and the guy told me to get lost. The camps are very dirty.

'I will do everything I can to get to my destination'

Two days ago, I was so hungry. I asked for some food. At first everyone I asked refused. I was on my way back to my room and then they called me. First they asked: Do you eat pork? I said, no, I am Muslim. So then he said, I have some bread, would you like that and I quickly said yeah yeah.Ahmad* sent InfoMigrants videos of some of the improvized meals he and others have made at the center in Romania | Photo: Screenshot video sent in by Ahmad

Some Afghan guys who have been here longer have told me the asylum process can take a long time here, maybe three or four years in order to get documents to stay legally. The organization told me it would only take a few months.

I will do everything I can to get to my destination. The Hungarian border is very hard to pass but we have paid the smugglers and they know the ways. I know many guys who have crossed the borders and entered Schengen countries. I have already paid. The smugglers have to take me. The money is held in Afghanistan. If I get to Austria then I will say, OK, leave the money to him. It is all based on trust. Most of the smugglers are Pakistani. They are such smart people! They are running this kind of business. They arrange cars and find out the mafia in every country.

'Smugglers are brutal people'

The smugglers are brutal people, they are heartless. You pay them money but whatever they want to do to you on the way, they will do. They sold me many times along the way. It is not just one person who carries you from one place to the next. They do some very very ugly things to you, they are beating you, whatever they can, they will do; they will not stop. You have to just think about surviving and you have to be careful.

I try not to tell my family about my whole story; I have tried to hide it from them. When we arrived in Greece it was awesome. In Turkey, I was staying in a smuggler’s apartment in Istanbul and there was an accident, I don’t really know what happened but a kettle fell on my arm and I suffered lots of burns. Then we were put inside a truck, about 129 people and there was no oxygen, I thought we were about to die. I saw many guys who were unconscious. We were lucky to survive. Finally, we crossed the land border with Greece and we got to Thessaloniki. I didn’t want to enter the container but the smugglers have knives and they said I had to.

'Sometimes I feel sad. I miss my Mom'

I was sweating and cold and my bandages and skin stuck to each other. I wasn’t able to walk as my thigh was also burned. In Greece, I kept going to the police officer asking to be arrested, because I couldn’t walk. And the police kept telling me to go away. I had no choice; I thought that I couldn’t get help at the hospital as I had no papers. I went to the police so many times but they kept sending me away. I was in such pain and I met some Afghan guys and they told me, you have to go to the hospital. Finally a lady helped me and there was a German doctor with an organization and they helped me. I was badly injured. After a week, I set off for Serbia.Police officer taking fingerpringts of a refugee in the Police immigration office in Svinesund, Norway | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/H.Junge

I think Norway is a lovely country; it is one of my favorites. I like places which are calm and the people are silent. Norway is beautiful and awesome. I have seen videos and I have been learning about Oslo and other cities in Norway. I like cold places.

I have some friends there and I am in touch with them but they have told me that it would be difficult for me to get to Norway. So, now I am thinking about Switzerland because I like nature. I want to educate myself. I would like to become a software engineer and just live a peaceful life. I will do any kind of job; I just need to help my people.

Maybe soon I will have escaped from here because life here is pretty awful. I am not looking for money, I am looking for education. I am not educated and I want to be an educated person so I can have a good life and a good future.

Sometimes I feel sad. I miss my Mom and my niece. Many times I have seen people who have given up and gone back to Afghanistan but I will never do that. My aim is just not to be sent back to Afghanistan. If I were to be sent back, I would die. I would prefer to take the chances to die here rather than be sent back there. All I want is a peaceful life. I hope one day to have a good life; that is what I wish for."

*Ahmad’s name has been changed to protect his identity.