< >

United Kingdom

Shir Sharifi, 18

Refugee from Paghman, Afghanistan, now living in London

The main reason I left Afghanistan was the security situation. I was the eldest male in my family and for that reason my mum decided to send me here. I remember life under the Taliban, at that time there was no radio, no TV, no school, nothing.

I really wanted to leave the country and I was so happy when my father told me they were going to send me. My father began talking with an agent and gave him some money and the agent did all the stuff, got me a passport, visa, everything.

I flew to Iran. I was in Tehran for five days. There were more people, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Kurds. At about midnight the agent came with horses and took us to the Turkish border.

We spent one night at the border and the next morning a car came and took us to the station. From the station we took a coach to Istanbul. After Istanbul the agent took us to the border with Greece. After four nights a small boat came. It was only built to take four people, but the agent put 12 people in.

When we got to Greece, there was no-one, we didn't know what to do. When morning came me and another boy we just found the road and the police came and took us to the police station. They gave us some papers and said you can go anywhere that you want. I was in Athens for two or three nights. I met some people from Afghanistan and they helped me a lot. They gave me some money.

Then I came to the port of Patras on my way to Italy. I was there for three weeks before the agent put me in a lorry towards the UK. You could sit above the wheels under the lorry. The agent gave me a small knife. He told me, 'when the lorry gets onto the ship, use this knife to cut into the roof of another lorry.' The lorry travelled for about three hours before stopping on the motorway. I bought a ticket from that place to Milan and in Milan an Indian man helped me get a ticket to Paris. When I came to Paris I went to a park where there were a lot of Afghans, Pakistanis, Turkish. The next day I called my family and I told them I don't have money so they sent me some money. And I got another ticket from Paris to Calais.

I was in Calais for a month and half. The agent was taking everyone to this roundabout in Calais every night. The lorries came that way. They would slow down at the roundabout and the agent would run behind the lorry, open the door, we would jump in, and then the agent closed the door behind us. At the checkpoint we would always be found. We were never arrested; they just said 'go back'. Many times this happened, I don't remember exactly. Finally one night it worked. That night the lorry passed the checkpoint, and no one checked the lorry that night for some reason. I don't know why.

The lorry took us somewhere close to Croydon. First I went to the Home Office. We just went straight in and said, "we are new". They asked me a lot of questions. Then after that they put me in a hostel. After one month, they gave me refugee status for one and a half years. My status finished on June 2009 and I was waiting until December 2011, they didn't give me anything. I've been to court many, many times. On the fifth time the Home Office said we will give you a status for three and half years.

One day in November 2010, I was at a friend’s house. My friend had a problem with his flatmate from Algeria. I went down the stairs and I said 'What happened guys?' Suddenly the boy attacked me and he stabbed my eye. I fell unconscious and my friend called the ambulance and when I came back round I was in hospital. They said 'sorry, you've lost your eye'.

I was in college until the fight when I lost my eye. I work with the British Army now. They want to learn about Afghan culture, the language and these kind of things. There are three roles: Afghan police, Afghan National Army, and civilian. I play the Afghan National Army role.

It's been almost six years since I’ve seen my family. I made a mistake to come here. It was a big mistake. If you're with your family it's better than everything. My idea when I was 14 was wrong. Now I'm confused what I should do because in this country I am not feeling comfortable. I think that if I go back to my country maybe I will not be comfortable also.