A Child Immigrant’s Journey
In Afghanistan, we have an old saying; it goes something like this: “Sometimes in order to see the light, you need to risk the dark.”
Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I will let you be the judge, I did risk the dark and here is what happened.
In June 2001, at the tender age of 9, without fully realizing what was about to happen, my life took a whole new direction as my parents made a huge sacrifice and took a life changing decision. They decided to send my brother (13) and I to the UK, not just to escape the civil war under the Taliban regime, but also with the hope that their children would receive a better education and ultimately have a better future.
I can only assume that it was very difficult and extremely brave of my parents to send their two young kids away to an unknown country thousands of miles apart. They put their trust and confidence in the hands of the human smugglers. To this day, I admire their deep felt love and tenacity.
Once the decision was confirmed and the human smugglers were half paid, my brother and I soon embarked on an enduring journey by land that took us over nine gruelling months to complete as we ventured across 12 countries, 2 continents and over 5000 miles.
There we were, two young kids away from the warmth and comfort of their homes, travelling along with other immigrants from strange lands, all with one focus, one goal; which was to reach their destination quickly and safely.
During these nine months, we experienced an adventurous life that was exciting and exhilarating at times, but truly terrifying and extremely agonizing during others.
Being illegal immigrants in the countries that we resided and crossed, we were all in a constant state of anxiety. This combined with the fear of losing our lives, running out of money and not reaching our destination sometimes became overbearing and mentally broke down even the strongest amongst us.
The safety of our lives and successfully reaching the next phase of our journey heavily depended on the smugglers that looked after us. Some were well prepared and experienced, whilst others lacked the confidence and tenacity needed for such a role. They had a big responsibility at their hands, as any mistake would jeopardize all our enduring efforts.
Some attempts at crossing these borders were successful, whilst others life threatening and daunting. Some trips involved mooching through deep forests for miles in the night, whilst others involved jumping on trains that had been stopped in the middle of nowhere and whose drivers had been bribed. Over the course of these nine months, we matured so quickly that we wouldn’t have recognized our previous selves.
At an age where a normal kid would be sitting at home, going to school and playing games, we were out there risking our lives, spending time in various prison cells and going through a journey that no adult should ever experience; never mind children.
When we were locked in those cells, thousands of miles away from family and wearing those prison clothes that were far too large for us, I remember very clearly that I wasn’t scared. Somewhere deep down, I knew that we would get out of those situations and would one day look back at it and smile that it happened.
In March, 2002, hidden in the back of a lorry, we eventually crossed the channel and touched down in Dover, UK. It was an extremely emotional day and we could barely hide away our tear. Fast forward 11 years, after a lot of additional hard work, diligence and perseverance, I am now walking towards the light. In these 11 years, after an initial culture shock, I adapted to my surroundings very quickly. I taught myself English, completed school and A Levels, achieved outstanding grades and soon started studying at one of the finest universities in Europe. I am now working for IBM; one of the world’s biggest and most essential companies that has revenue five times bigger than the GDP of the country I immigrated from.
This would so far be usually classified as a success story. To some extent it is and I sure hope it continues as I walk closer to the light. However, the sacrifices I have made over the years, the unfortunate events that have occurred, vastly outweigh the little success and I may have achieved this far.
This was an introduction to my journey. Over the next series of blogs, I will uncover every intricate detail of this enduring journey and dive deeper into more intriguing events that occurred. I will elaborate more on the shady world of human smuggling and tell stories that will open your eyes and change your perspective on a few big issues discussed around the world today. Finally I will talk about the reason why my parents took such a risky decision and the impatient yearning I have to achieve something great in order to compensate for my losses.
All views are my own