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'I thought Afghanistan would be safe': Living in exile for the second time

‘I thought Afghanistan would be safe’: Living in exile for the second time

Iran, Turkey and Italy. Abdullah lists some of the countries he crossed with his wife Shazia and their children, before reaching the informal camp where many Kurds from Iraq and Syria live, as well as some Afghans.

And although the kids wear jackets with the Eiffel Tower on, France is just a stopover. The Afghan family wants to get to the UK, where some relatives already live.

The Taliban came, after life was destroyedAbdullah says to explain what prompted him to take a long and dangerous journey for two months before settling in a tent while waiting to cross the canal.

A few meters away, near a site where organizations distribute food, Rahmani, a 28-year-old Afghan, says he also fled his country a few months ago, before the Taliban seized Kabul.

Every day, the associations distribute meals to the people in the Grande-Synthe camp.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphael Bouvier Auclair

For him, this is the second exile. He lived in the UK for ten years before returning to Afghanistan in 2016.

I thought Afghanistan would be safeHe explains, adding that instability finally pushed him to leave his relatives behind to rejoin Europe.

Nobody wants to have to leave their country under these circumstances. You spend your money and risk your life. It is difficult to cross every country with rain, snow and hail.

Quote from:Rahmani, an Afghan refugee

Europe a land of welcome?

And Rahmani, Abdullah and Shazia are not the only ones who fled their country before the campaigns led by Western countries to evacuate their nationals and the Afghans who worked with them from Afghanistan.

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And if these Afghans meet at Grand Synthe in hopes of starting a new life in the UK, many have chosen to stop in the West Channel in recent months.

Thus, Afghanistan is the first country of origin for asylum seekers in France. In 2020, Afghans submitted more than 10,000 applications to the French state, out of a total of about 95,000 cases.

Across the European Union, more than 44,000 Afghans applied in 2020, making them the second citizenship for asylum seekers after Syrians.

Will the crisis that the country is going through contribute to an increase in the flow of Afghan immigrants to the European continent?

This is what French President Emmanuel Macron suggested during a televised address on August 16. We must anticipate and protect ourselves from large irregular migration flowsHe said, prompting criticism from political opponents, especially from the left.

We have been contacted on several occasions, either by people who were in Afghanistan who feared for their lives there or by people in France and their families in Afghanistan., admits Anna Richelle, coordinator at Utopia 56’s Grande-Synthe, which responds to the urgent needs of migrants already in Europe.

Two employees of the Utopia Society 56.

Marie Chapelle and Anna Richelle work for Utopia 56, an organization that responds to the urgent needs of migrants in France.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphael Bouvier Auclair

But she adds that it will be some time before we see the impact of the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

First, it seems more complicated for these citizens to leave Afghanistan.

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Then, navigating the two continents would require weeks, even months. Among the countries through which migrants must pass, some, such as Turkey and Greece, have recently announced the implementation of measures to control the crossings through their territories.

In Europe, some governments have also shown little openness about the possibility of welcoming more Afghan refugees. Thus, if the British government promised to open its doors to 20,000 Afghanis over the next few years, the Austrian chancellor on his part indicated his intention to refuse to welcome more.

Tents on a vacant plot.

Tents at the Grande-Synthe camp in France, where several people are living temporarily hoping to make it to the UK.

Photo: Radio Canada / Raphael Bouvier Auclair

Regardless, Anna Richelle, who also works for Utopia 56, believes we will continue to see people trying to get to the European continent.

At the moment, there is nothing being done at all levels to improve it. Whether due to wars, civil wars or the climate, the numbers are expected to be steady, if not increasing.

Quote from:56- Anna Richelle Coordinator Utopia

Rahmani, a young Afghan who hopes to reach England, for example, did not wait to find out what fate awaited him in Europe before leaving his country.

If you are safe and have a good life, you are not leaving. […] The family is the family. home is home, He says.