To be a refugee – Rahman’s story

Rahman is a community volunteer with A Drop in the Ocean in Nea Kavala refugee camp. Prior to his arrival in Northern Greece, he stayed in Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. In this blog post, he shares his personal story.

Nea Kavala flyktningleir refugee camp

Because of the situation in Afghanistan, my family and I left in 2019, when I was 17 years old. I did not want to leave but my family made the decision. Nine of us travelled from Afghanistan to Iran, then crossed the border from Iran to Turkey, illegally. We had to walk for more than eight hours.

In Turkey, we stayed in a small, old house in a city near the border for four nights. The situation was terrible and there were many other people there. It was dirty and we slept on the floor. It was absolutely freezing at night and the worst place I had ever been.

We then travelled through Turkey where we had to wait by the coast for a boat to Greece. Everywhere we went, we had to try to avoid the police. I had never experienced this in Afghanistan. When we reached the coast, we had no idea that we would have to wait for a long time before the boat arrived. We had only brought enough food and water for one day but had to wait for three days in the forest. It was a very distressing experience for all of us.

Waiting for the boat to Greece, I met a lot of people. There were many types of people which I had never met before. It was so new for me, seeing how different people are. For example, in Afghanistan, I had never met an openly gay person before, or a person with tattoos on their face. It really opened my eyes to other ways of life. To be honest, I was quite shocked.

From Turkey to Lesvos

I think our experience on the boat was not so bad. The water was very calm when we travelled from Turkey to Lesvos. There were about 50 people on the boat – a rubber dinghy. All eight of my family members and I travelled together. We wore life jackets we had purchased in Turkey for around 50 euros each. We travelled during the day and the journey only took about 40 minutes. I feel very lucky, because I have heard that other people have had really bad experiences. I once met someone who said that they travelled at night, and that they lost one of their children to the sea.

I knew that we wanted to get to Europe, but I wasn’t aware of the refugee situation in Greece. My family and I wanted, and still want, to go to Germany, where we have other family members.

When we arrived in Greece, I didn’t know anything about the country. I just knew that we would cross the border to enter Europe. It was only when I came here that I found out that we could not leave to go to another country. Because of regulations, we have to stay in Greece.

I didn’t know about the refugee camps or what the situation in Moria was going to be like

Rahman

We had a comfortable life in Afghanistan and my home was quite big. I had never lived so close to other people who were not family members before. When I arrived in Moria camp, I learnt so many things about different groups of people. One of the first questions I was asked by officials in the camp was whether I was a Sunni or a Shia Muslim. At the time, I didn’t know the difference.

I was shocked when I saw the conditions in Moria camp. I made a small makeshift tent with pallets and tarpaulin in the woods for my family. The way some people in the camp acted really shocked me. Even hearing young Afghan children using swear words was very strange for me. It was not what I was used to. There was a lot of violence, drugs, and crime in the camp. I had never seen this before. My older brother volunteered there as a translator. He asked me to work too, but I didn’t want to. Many people were rude and unfriendly towards him and treated him quite badly. We stayed in Moria camp for around five months before we got the opportunity to travel to the mainland.

Arrival in Nea Kavala

My family and I came to Nea Kavala in April 2020. When we first arrived, there were not too many people in the camp. Most people lived in containers and two rubhalls (tents) – one for Arab speakers and one for Farsi speakers. The first couple of months were bad. My family and I felt so alone. We had absolutely nothing to do.

Normally, I am such an active person, but I was feeling so depressed at that time. I was just eating and sleeping. The weather was extremely windy and the noise in the tent was deafening. The town was far away, and because of Covid-19, there were no activities in the camp. We stayed in the tent all the time. When I think about it now, it feels as though I’ve lost two years of my life. I miss my friends and my classmates from Afghanistan. Now that I am over 18, I cannot finish my education here because of government policy.

After around four months in the camp, when more people arrived, I began to feel a little better. I realised that there were many other people in the same situation as me. The situation here is so much better than in Moria.

I think that if you have seen Moria, you will think that Nea Kavala is like a palace

Rahman

Here, you can walk around without being afraid of being mugged or attacked. When I was in Moria, I thought nobody was in as bad of a situation as me, but when I came here, I met other people who have had a much worse experience.

When I started working for A Drop in the Ocean, I found myself again. Before A Drop in the Ocean, I felt anxious speaking to two or three people, and I did not have experience as a translator. When I first arrived in Nea Kavala, no one knew me because I was just eating and sleeping all day. But now I have made a lot of friends and have a lot more confidence. I feel a lot more relaxed because my situation is nothing compared to some other people. I want to say thank you to A Drop in the Ocean for helping me find myself again.

Back in Afghanistan, my teacher asked me two questions. The first was “what do you want to become in the future?” and the second was “what is your life goal?”. I said I wanted to become a police officer, so that I could help my people. I would still like to pursue this career as I believe it is a very important responsibility. To answer the second question, I told her that my life goal was to achieve peace in the world. But I ask, who makes the guns? Why? Who do they want to save us from? If we look for peace with guns and fighting, we will never find it.

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