“Bitter” Refugee Experiences

Today there occurs that climactic EU summit with Turkey PM Davutoğlu devoted to the refugee crisis. It’s safe to say all Europe awaits the outcome of that with bated breath, although perhaps none more so than the many refugees now trapped in Greece, together with those others even further behind in the pipeline (e.g. still in Turkey; or trapped in Syria in front of the closed Turkish border).

Here and there, however, there will be some who are not so interested: they’ve made up their minds to head back where they came from. The following Agence France-Presse piece by Guillaume Decamme, carried on Yahoo! France, examines a couple of their “bitter experiences.”

Let’s take up these examples. Note that they all have to do with men from Afghanistan. (Note as well that there is also a two-minute video heading the article, in case you’d like to hear them make their cases personally – in language translated to French.)

First we have Mohammed Asif Nouri, 26 years old and with a degree in economics: “I thought my dream would come true in Europe,” he laments. Last year he braved the terrible journey which eventually landed him in Frankfurt-am-Main, via the route everyone knows about (once the Hungarians had put up their fence): Turkey-Greece-Macedonia-Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia-Austria. Once in Germany, he was shuttled between various refugee centers in Hamburg, Sachsen-Anhalt and then to Frankfurt.

The one constant he encountered? “European nationalism,” he says. “The Europeans think we are going to destroy their culture.” Then there was that time when he wanted to ask directions of some German, who first stood off to put some distance between them and then insisted in answering in German – “whereas 99% of Germans speak English.”

Actually, no. Not true at all. A German was not supposed to answer in German? That bit about putting some distance from himself is not good, but each culture has its own idea about appropriate “personal space” when interacting with strangers. And about that “nationalism” and “destroying their culture”: Indeed, attitudes towards refugees have become rather less friendly, especially after what happened on New Year’s Eve in Cologne (and other cities), but Mr. Asif Nouri simply needed to deal with it. Really, I have to think there is more to this story that M. Decamme didn’t have the space to include, for as things stand it seems clear Mr. Asif Nouri simply wimped out: trying to win asylum in Germany – something around 1 million other people are also trying to do – was never going to be a walk in the park.

“Jam Tomorrow . . . Never Jam Today!”

Or take Abdul Ghafour Aryan, 24 years old, who had to put out $7,500 in savings to get to Germany and spent most of his time there at a refugee center in Fulda. “At the camp, the toilettes were dirty and at each meal we only had the right to jam and butter.” Terrible; truly terrible – and forcing on them food that is so un-Afghan! Although I hope I have permission to assume ample quantities of bread for carrying all those condiments. And guess what: jam and butter do NOT happen to be forbidden foods under Islam; how would you like some nice German pork, Mr. Ghafour Aryan?

What is more: It was the Syrians who got priority all the time! THEY were first in line for German courses! “The Germans have to know that Afghanistan is at war, just like in Syria. We should be treated in the same manner.”

Thank you, Mr. Geopolitics! Actually, the German authorities are fairly well-informed about what is currently going on in Afghanistan. And they, together with the whole EU, have made their decisions about which countries’ refugees get priority for asylum, and which countries’ do not. As far as I have heard, in fact, Afghans do rank up there along with Syrians, in terms of Afghanistan being considered a dangerous land whose refugees need to be protected and not just considered “economic migrants.” But the cuisine, the toilets and the sheer unfairness of it all was too much for Mr. Ghafour Aryan, who like Mr. Asif Nouri took up an offer of a free plane ticket back to Kaboul.

With that, the best solution was reached, at least as far as Germany was concerned. Frankly, the benefits immigrants bring to their new lands include above all that they are more motivated to survive and then succeed, so that it was good to see the back of this pair who clearly did not have such qualities in them.

M. Decamme does top up his piece, however, with yet another Afghan, this time one back in Kaboul but who would also like to leave, one Nomyalay Saïd. And he should be allowed to leave, namely to the US because he served quite a while as an interpreter for American forces in Afghanistan. No doubt the locals know that he did that; no doubt his life is worth very little once the Taliban catch up with him. If you’re search for truly scandalous treatment, for abandoning faithful servants to their deadly fate, it’s in the neglect of these personnel by the American authorities that you will find that.

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