Jalil was 23 years old when he died from drowning last month in Greece. I got to know him during our three days in the refugee camp where he and a few hundred other good people were waiting for some sort of news that would help them transition to a normal life. He was cheerful, extremely intelligent, and full of energy.
He was a journalist in Afghanistan who received a death threat from the remnants of the Taliban who still control much of the country. His family decided that he should flee the country for survival. Because it currently costs about 10,000 euro to be smuggled from Turkey to Germany, his mother and sister decided that he should use all of their money and go alone. They are still in danger but they decided that they could more safely wait until he was secure and able to earn some money in Europe.
He escaped from the camp in Moria, Lesvos because it was so unsafe there. He said that fights were breaking out in the camp nearly every night. He found a hole in the fence at the camp and ran as fast as he could. Because he was a trained runner (he was once on the national track team of Afghanistan), he was able to outrun the police. He ran to the port and found a ship, and jumped on it as it was leaving. After arriving in mainland Greece he had 10 unsuccessful attempts to leave Greece and enter other countries in Europe. He was caught by Greek police, Serbian police, and Bulgarian police. He told me that he would try 40 more times, and wouldn’t stop until he achieved his goal.
“God told me,” he said in an intense whisper, “you decide what you want to do, and I’ll help you do it. I decided that I wouldn’t stop until I leave Greece, and I know that I’ll get out of here without having to return to Afghanistan."
Jalil described how many of the other refugees used all of their money to reach Greece, but now are stuck in camps and can’t do anything to progress. They want to work, they want to support their families, but they are stuck waiting with little hope of progress. He said that Syrians are always the first to be accepted into the rest of Europe, because Syria is at war.
“Is Afghanistan safe?” he emphasized, “People are dying from bomb attacks; how can we say that Afghanistan is safe?"
“How can we stay in Greece? There are so many people who have lost everything, and there is no work for any of us. We need to work to support our families. In Afghanistan I had everything, but I lost it. I didn’t come here to enjoy Greece, I came here for my safety. But we learned that we’re not safe here, either."
“I don’t think we have any future here in Greece, but I know that I’ll die if I stay in Afghanistan."
"We’re not animals and we’re not criminals. We are humans. We thought there were human rights in Europe, and that’s why we came.”