Danial, who is now 17 years old was born into a very poor family in Afghanistan. His family dreamt for a long time about going to Europe but their poverty meant it was impossible. However the family had many problems in the village concerning disputes over land which had resulted in the death of his grandfather and other close family members.. His father decided that they had to leave the country and he spoke with someone in Turkey to help them come to Europe. This man told his father to first send Danial to him, because he is young and then the rest of the family can come later.
Danial arrived in Izmir with just 100 euros in his pocket. “I was very afraid because I was on my own and this was the first time I had been so far away from my home and family. I was also very hungry. I couldn’t buy anything because I needed to keep all my money to get to Europe. The Turkish man, my contact, had met me at the station in Izmir and took me to a big house where there were many refugees who also wanted to go to Europe. After one day in the house he gave me a little food but I was still very hungry.”
Danial was only in Izmir a few days before he and many others tried to get to Mitilyni in a small boat but they were caught by the Turkish police and Danial was taken immediately to prison. He was very shocked and afraid – “I cried a lot and couldn’t understand what was happening to me and why I was in prison”. The prison was terrible. There was very little food, the water wasn’t clean and nowhere to shower. He was not allowed to keep his phone so he couldn’t call his family or his only Turkish contact. “All I had were my tears.”
After 10 days of this hell he was released. There was a big celebration of Islamic people in Turkey on this day and many people were released from prison. Danial was very happy to be free but he had no idea how he was going to find his Turkish contact. Fortunately some of the people who had been with Danial in the prison saw how upset and alone he was and took Danial back to the area in Izmir where his contact lived. Danial remembered the area well and luckily was able to find the house and his contact.
A few days later they set off again. This time to Samos. There were 58 people (children, old people and many women) with him in the small boat. “I was very very frightened. I can’t swim and I am very afraid of the sea. I was wearing a sweater to keep warm. The faces of my mother and father never left my mind.”
“After 4 hours we reached Samos but it was not easy to land so the driver of the boat said that some of us would have to leave the boat and get to the shore ourselves. 30 of us got out and the 28 left could easily get to the beach. Of course I was afraid but luckily for me the man near me who was like a body builder saw that I was very afraid and also very slim and he took me by the hand and on to the land.
Danial arrived on Samos on October 17th 2016. “I was so happy to be still alive but at the same time very sad to be so far away from my family. I had no contact with them or know anything about how they were. I thought I would be alone for ever. I cried.”
After around 10 minutes of walking up the mountain one of the group phoned the Samos police who came and took us all to the Camp.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I had never thought about it.”
But “I was afraid and also very tired. I felt so young and alone. I was nervous because I thought there may be people from my area in Afghanistan in the camp and that I would get beaten and bullied. I knew that some people wanted to kill me and my father. I shared a small tent with a very nice man from Syria and he helped me to call my Turkish contact who told me that my family had got out safely and were now in Iran. I was so happy to know that they were in a safer place.”
The other refugees he met in the camp warned him not to say much to the Asylum Service, not even his correct name. Then for next 10 days nothing happened and nobody came to help him so Danial decided to go back to the Asylum Service and to tell them exactly who he was and where he was from. But Danial had no passport and no ID and he wasn’t believed. It was only when he met a psychologist in the camp that his situation changed.
“I was very upset when I talked with the psychologist. He made me comfortable and everything poured out of my heart as I remembered my family. This psychologist stood by me and helped me correct all my details and then arranged for me to move into house ‘for minors’ travelling alone. It was a good house with 21 boys from many countries and there were many people there to help us.”
“I was very happy. I saw life for the first time and felt like a human being.”
In this home he was given a mobile phone so he could call his family in Iran. He learnt to play the guitar and they also bought him one. He also started to learn English with his teacher who he described as “a wonderful human being” who helped him so much.
“OK I could not choose what to eat, or to buy clothes I liked or have money in my pocket to buy a coffee in the town but these were good days for me. I felt safe and care for. I miss Samos very much, the streets in the town and all the people I knew there.
“I was very happy when the UNHCR decided that I should move to Athens. I am sure no one can understand my feelings when I was on the ship because it was my big dream coming true.”
Danial is now living in a house for unaccompanied minors in Athens where he shares a room with
two other boys who he likes very much because they are very kind and respect him.
But there is much in Athens which makes him sad especially the Greek people who are homeless on the streets without food and clothes.
“It makes me feel very shy because they are from Greece, from Europe but they have no one who cares for them. I am from another country and yet I have found people who love and care for me. It makes me think again about my dream of Europe and I sometimes wonder if in the future I will be like them out on the streets.”
“At the moment I don’t have any plans but I hope to meet other positive people like myself who can help me start my life again in Europe.”
Danial is an intelligent boy who has managed to keep a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes. He like so many others deserves a chance for life.
(This article is based on conversations between Danial and Saad and then written by Saad and Chris)