About Refugees, By Refugees
Trigger Warning: Death, violence/murder.
Can you introduce yourself?
Yes. I’m Bashir Yousefi. 19 years old from Afghanistan, Daykundi province, Khidir district.
In what kind of housing do you live?
I live in a camp inside a Conex.
Who do you live with?
With my friend [redacted].
Just one person?
Just one person.
How is your life going here?
My life… it’s fine and normal, not too bad nor too good.
Do you have any problems?
It’s all problems but you have to endure them.
Can you give us an example?
For example, where the hell should I go when I get sick? Doctors are not available at all. They always tell you to drink cold water. Who gets fixed with cold water or useless pills? Does anyone get better with these pills? No way. This is an example.
How do you spend your time every day? Do you have a job or are you unemployed?
For sure I do. I go running every day.
I mean do you have an official job?
English classes, an hour per day. Oh my God! How many questions is it?
I mean an official job where you get paid.
How do you spend your time every day?
Spend my time… Every day… I’m awake at night. I sleep early in the morning, at 7 o’clock until 3 in the afternoon. After 3 pm I do things like playing soccer or running. I don’t do any other specific activities.
What brings you happiness and joy here?
Talking to friends. Going on walks. Playing football. Studying and stuff.
Is there any class?
You know classes have begun recently, before corona.
Did you do these before the corona pandemic?
Yes. After the pandemic, they have been starting one by one. One or two days.
How has your life been ever since you got to Europe?
It is in a horrible condition.
What do you mean by horrible? What has been good and what has been bad?
When I got here, away from my father and mother, I was in a limbo. My situation is uncertain. I’ve been here anyway. It’s been two or three years that I’ve been in this horrendous country. My situation is horrible.
What are the good things here? What are the good things?
There are many good things.
For example, for example…
For example … It’s a good place. It’s good in general. It’s green. The only good thing about here is that one feels safe to study or to do many other things. It’s safe and good here. But in our country it’s just bang bang, war, suicide attacks all the time. That’s the only good thing about here: that you can do something without any worries, but I couldn’t do them in my own country.
Is that the only positive point?
Can you tell me, how do you feel about living in Europe?
To leave here and get somewhere fine, get my approval…
No, I mean where you live at the moment.
Here, in this situation, how do you feel?
Right now I don’t have a good feeling, from here onward, God is kind and maybe things get better. Anxiety, nervousness, uncertainty, misery. It’s all stressful until I get somewhere.
It means living in here gives you these feelings?
Exactly, for sure!
How being away from your family or country makes you feel?
Anxiety, longing, loneliness.
How have these feelings affected your daily life?
They have affected me a lot. I’ve gone nuts. I’ve gone crazy.
Can you explain a little more?
Psychologically, mentally, my nerves are frayed. I can’t talk to people for a long time, if I talk for too long my mind blows up.
What other problems do you see?
Problems… Ever since I came to this country I had no friends. I hung out with some people that ended up I smoked hashish, I got addicted to smoking cigarettes. Anyway the brain doesn’t work. I can’t talk a lot. I can’t communicate with anyone. That’s why.
Did you ever imagine coping with this situation?
No, not at all. I never imagined this much [trouble?].
How do you cope with this situation?
Well the circumstances, you have to… When it puts me under a lot of pressure I go on walks to the city or some other places. Sometimes I play football, sometimes I chit-chat with friends. I somehow handle the situation.
Do you think these challenges…? I meant did you have the ability to counter these challenges or you gained it?
I gained it.
How… I learned when I got here. I had no idea these things would happen. I was completely lost. When I came here and I saw things with my own eyes I understood I had to do these things to deal with problems, that I have to fill my time with working, studying, running, soccer. I have to keep myself busy with these [activities].
How has coronavirus impacted your daily life, feelings, or behavior?
I can’t communicate with my friends properly; I can’t chat with them. I’m always alone. We can’t leave the Conex. It’s all difficult.
How has it impacted your feelings?
I feel alone.
And your behavior?
My behavior… no one gets close to you. It’s always coronavirus and I’m alone.
Has it changed your disposition?
No, it’s like before. I haven’t changed.
About your past, what made you leave your country?
War. Misery. Explosion. Suicide attacks.
How did you feel when you were leaving your country?
I was a child back then. I didn’t know how I felt.
How old were you?
At that time, I was around five or six.
You mean at first you left Afghanistan and went to Iran?
Yes. We went from Afghanistan to Iran when I was five or six years old.
And when did you leave Iran for Europe?
And what made you leave Iran at that time?
Well… I used to work but didn’t get paid. We had [Afghan] passports but we couldn’t get SIM cards or bank cards with them. I couldn’t take it anymore so I moved towards Europe.
Why didn’t you go to Afghanistan?
Afghanistan… well, I couldn’t. There were some issues.
My dad has some issues. He fled the country, that’s why we can’t… There are some issues that I can’t tell anyone.
How did you feel when you were leaving Iran?
I had a good feeling. I had a very good feeling. [I wanted to] get to a good place and at least have a better life.
How was your journey to Europe?
It was a really tough journey. Really tough.
Are there any specific events that you would like to talk about?
Specific events… yes. When we were on the water our boat started leaking, it was sinking. Thanks to God a rescue boat saved us. We were about to sink and we could have died away from home.
How did you feel at that time?
I had a horrible feeling. I had lost all hope to survive. My heartbeat had reached 180.
What happened on the sea at that time?
We were on the sea. After sailing for an hour and half our boat started leaking. We were about to sink under water by the time rescue boats came. It was horrendous. We almost sank.
How many of you were on the boat?
On the boat… Around 49… regardless of the kids… there were almost 48 or 49 of us. Let’s say 50.
Were there families on the boat?
Yes. There were also families, a pregnant woman…
Do you still feel affected by those events?
… (unintelligible) I still see the time that we were on boat and the boat was leaking and we were sinking in my dreams… I see that night… that day… ever since that night I have nightmares about it.
And have those feelings, like your nightmares, affected your daily activities?
I have so many nightmares that I’m terrified of them. When we go to the seaside the hell breaks loose. I feel scared. When we get on a boat, even for fun, my heartbeat raises, that scene flashes before my eyes, that scene where we were on a sailboat on our way to Greece.
Before that incident, did you ever imagine something like that happening or having to deal with it?
At that time… I never imagined it. But thanks to God it somehow passed. I couldn’t believe it. We told ourselves that it’s over, that our lives were over. Thanks to God [for saving us]. The rescue boat arrived and saved us.
How do you deal with your memories? Do you have any strategies or plans? What do you see your strength in?
I have no specific plans; I just try to cope with the condition. Like I said a couple of questions earlier, sometimes I play soccer, sometime I do fun stuff, I try to endure by doing these kinds of activities. I try to keep my spirit high as in normal times.
What do you see your strength in?
I usually think about my mother and father, my family, that’s how I hold up. I have the ability to get somewhere fine in the future so that I can meet them again. That’s why I’m doing all these.
Before starting your journey to Europe, when you still had a normal life and you had no plans to move towards Europe, what were your dreams for the future?
When I was still young my first dream was to study. At the time I was really enthusiastic about it. I wanted to become a doctor, to study biology and then medicine. After a while I had to leave school because of some problems. I started working. I learned how to mend furniture and I wanted to start a workshop of my own. Ever since I got here I dream of becoming a soccer player. I want to go to Germany, Dortmund. If God is willing, you will see in the future!
What was your dream when you decided to start your journey to Europe? I mean what were your goals? What did you want to achieve?
What did I want to achieve? I wanted to go to a good country, a safe country, be it Germany or Switzerland. And soccer. My dream was to become a soccer player when I was leaving Iran. I wanted to reach Europe and become a soccer player.
Before leaving your country and coming here, what did you see as your strength and motivation that helped you succeed?
When I left my country or when I left my family?
When you left your family, because you were quite young when you left your country. When you left Iran and moved towards Europe.
At the time I was trying to get to a good place, European countries, and to play soccer.
What gave you strength?
To see my parents happy. They also told me when I left… anyway…
Do you still have that motivation and strength? How?
Yes, I do.
Through going to a good country. Becoming successful in soccer, getting back proudly, seeing my family, my mother and father, again. That’s what I want.
Were the things that happened on your journey through traffickers hard on you? Do you think these events have made you grow up? What were the positive aspects of your journey?
In this journey everything was a new experience. Yes, an experience. I came here by myself, I became a little more resilient. These hardships will make me try harder in the future to achieve my dreams.
What were the positive aspects of your journey?
I learned. I learned how to endure troubles alone.
What kind of people did you meet throughout your journey?
Every kind of person. I met addicts and healthy people. I met a lot of friends, good and bad. I learned a lot of things about how things work. What’s good and what’s bad, who’s a friend and who’s a pal.
Now that you’re here, what are your plans and dreams for the future?
My plan and dream is to go and do my best. To become a soccer player if God is willing. Soccer player… Yes, I want to become a soccer player in the future, a good player. Besides playing soccer I want a job, a job in construction or any other job to pay for my expenses.
Thank you for responding to our questions. In the end is there anything else you would like to add to your answers? Something that helps people better understand the situation of immigrants? In summary, what would you like to tell other people?
As an immigrant… When I was in Iran I had to emigrate because they saw us as Afghan. I couldn’t get a SIM card or bank card with my passport. They had a bad thought about us. When I got to Turkey I worked for four months but didn’t get paid because I was from Afghanistan and an immigrant. In the end they have a bad image about you because you are from Afghanistan. Not just people from Afghanistan but all of the immigrants, the Africans, the Arabs. Again, here in Greece, they don’t even respond to us properly. In the bus, they put a distance between us and make us sit far away, they don’t like us and don’t have a good picture about us. I ask them to act in a more just manner, to care. Because we are human beings and they are human beings too. That’s it.