Updated: Aug 21, 2020
On 19 May
Rezwan, how are you?
I am fine and I hope you are fine and safe. Recently the police arrested me again in the camp in Greece and brought me back to Turkey.
OMG, you crossed the sea and were deported again?
Yes, I am not lucky (with a smile emoji).
So sorry to hear that. So where are you now?
Thanks dear. I am in Istanbul. I’m so interested in having the follow-up interview but I am not sure if I have time or not because I am going to move again as soon as possible. Sorry (emoji)
So you’re planning to cross the sea again?
(The video is taken by Rezwan on the 18th of April, 2020.
We shared it here after getting his permission )
I’m Rezwan from Afghanistan, 26 years old. I was at university studying computer science and used to be responsible for keeping databases safe in a major company. A man has attempted to kill me and to steal the data I protect. Furthermore, I’m also from a minority group—Hazara ethnicity. We have often been persecuted in Afghanistan.
I began receiving death threats to me and my family. I left Afghanistan to Iran for asylum in 2015 as I was so terrified. But I was in jail and deported back to Afghanistan again and again. I tried so hard to stay in Iran but realised I would not be safe there. I decided to travel to Turkey.
I crossed the border in the middle of the night in the pouring rain and slept in the mountains at the Turkish side. With the other four Afghans, we didn’t know what would happen.
Five of us decided to take a bus to another place. I remember there was a waterfall. The police came and we thought they would arrest us. We escaped and ended up sleeping at a port. It was extremely cold. The day after, I heard those who didn’t escape were deported back to Afghanistan.
At that time, I was lucky.
After we reached Istanbul, I finally got an initial interview for an asylum application. However, I felt I was still in danger. I found a smuggler who can arrange a boat for me. After failing to cross the sea to Greece three times, I finally succeeded on 3rd May of 2019.
We had around 38 people on the boat. In total it took us 3 hours and 10 minutes to land in Greece. The police came and brought us to the Moria camp on the Lesvos island, where more than 20,000 asylum seekers inhabit a space intended for 3,000.
In the Moria camp, I worked as an interpreter and a community volunteer for a few non-governmental organisations. We folded clothes and distributed tickets for people so that they can go to the organisation's shop to get free clothes. I was also helping a medical team for translation.
The living situation was hurting me so much. It drove me crazy. I was housed in a tent with 12 people in the Moria camp. Greek authorities assumed we would get along well. I used to work from 7am to 11pm, from tent to tent, I saw pregnant women, unaccompanied children, people who have suffered from trauma…...I came back to my tent and cried.
Why, why, why, I kept asking myself, why we are in this situation?
One night while I was working with the medical team, a refugee youth was killed in the camp at 11:30pm after a group of refugees were fighting and shouting. I saw everything, everything.
We tried to save him but he was bleeding too much. We called an ambulance but the whole island only has two ambulances. It took one hour for them to come. Normally, they don’t come. Yes, it’s sad that daily clashes among refugees take place in the camp.
In the meantime, I need to prepare documents for my asylum application. The initial interview didn’t go very well. I got my first rejection. I was waiting for another three months to appeal my case.
One day, the police came to the tent and arrested me at 5am, in the early morning when I was sleeping.
They told me, “unfortunately, your case got rejected again. We need to deport you back to Turkey.” I was not informed.
They brought me to Mytilini jail and then to Moria detention center, where I couldn’t see anything outside. I was with many refugees from different countries.
The Greek authority then arranged a ship based on the agreement between the Greek and the Turkish government and deported us back to Turkey.
This time, I was not lucky.
I was in prison for six weeks in Turkey and was released with no papers and nowhere to go. The situation was very bad in prison. I don’t want to talk more about that.
Meanwhile Turkey was also on lockdown. I traveled to Istanbul and stayed in a friend’s apartment, hiding. I am an illegal migrant. I might be deported back to Afghanistan if the police found me without a legal document to stay in Turkey. I need to cross the sea again very soon.
It is still under lockdown. It’s too boring… Everyday I’m waiting for the end of the lockdown and I’ll arrange a boat to Greece again.
(Messages I sent to Rezwan a few weeks after the interview)
On 22 May
Hey, Rezwan, are you available to talk for a couple of minutes?
If you’re on your way, I pray for your safety. Take care, friend!
On 28 May
Are you still on the move, Rezwan?
On 04 June
Rezwan, let me know if you see my messages. I am worried about you. Waiting for your reply.
I was supposed to have a catch-up call with Rezwan on a Friday in May. But since that day, I had been waiting for his message for 20 days. He told me in the last conversation that he was waiting for a call from a smuggler to cross the sea again from Turkey to Greece. And then I lost contact with him. If he is on his way, it would be his fifth time.
My friend and I, and some of his previous colleagues in Greece were extremely worried about him. Weeks after weeks, we got no response.
Finally, he replied to me from his friends phone on 13 June 2020. His phone was taken in the detention center of Istanbul after he was deported.
My friend and I felt so relieved knowing that he is safe. But at the same time, it’s heartbreaking hearing what happened to him during his journey. He posted a video on Facebook, with tens of migrants on a rubber boat. Some wore a life jacket but some didn’t; some wore a mask, but some didn’t. Rezwan didn’t wear any of them. He recorded that video with his raging voice in order to press the world, particularly United Nations, to listen.
He hopes his voice and the voices of so many others like him can one day be heard and they can resettle on safe land.