Esmatullah disappeared in the mountains

How the migration system toys with human lives

13 NOVEMBER 2015,
A little Afghan refugee
A little Afghan refugee

As a journalist in Sweden, I've come in contact with a lot of people who have come here in hope of protection and a new safer life. I thought I'de share some typical stories with you.

The old woman who can't reach her family

Some weeks ago I met a woman in her 40's. She, as a syrian refugee, holds a residence permit since a few years back. But the problem is that her mother decided to stay because she is old and didn't have the strength to make the journey. But since then the civil war has intensified and become bloodier. Finally the old woman had no choice if she wanted to stay alive. Together with some neighbours, she traveled dangerous routs through the country to a refugee camp by the turkish border. Her daughter in Sweden was naturally relieved that her aged mother had been able to flee, but in a refugee camp she is far from safe.

Eventually her mother managed to get a visa to travel into Turkey to visit the Swedish embassy, and from there she would apply for family immigration to Sweden. She traveled 1211 kilometres into the country to the embassy in Istanbul and made her application.

After a few weeks she got her reply. She was denied an entry visa - and asylum. The reason was, as often is the case, that the mother was not a close enough relative even though it was her daughter that was in Sweden. In fact – the mother has to prove that she is in dire need of her children in order to manage her daily life. Another alternative is if they would have lived together as adults for several – which they hadn't.

The strange thing is that, at the moment as a Syrian refugee, you are guaranteed immediate asylum in Sweden. The only problem is that you can't apply for asylum as a refugee at the embassy in Istanbul – that has to be done in Sweden.

So what possibilities is the lonely old lady in Istanbul left with? Well this – return to the refugee camp or pay a fortune to get into the EU illegaly, past all the borders until she could finally reach Sweden, to be able to apply for asylum here. Which has proven to be a long and extremely dangerous journey.

He was sent back to the threat he'd fled from

Some years ago my colleague, Per Thyrén at the Swedish Radio, come in contact with a man in Sweden by the name of Esmatullah who had come to Sweden as a refugee from Afghanistan.

He used to work as a border police in his former home land in close cooperation with NATO´s forces - and with the afghani state. In other words – he became a target for al-Qaida, but also the talibans saw him as a traitor. Especially as there is a lot of drug trafficking across the border, which is an important sorce of income for both al-Qaida and the talibans.

In 2010 he fled to Sweden, and at last felt a bit safer. But the relief didn't last long. After a while his asylum application was denied. The Swedish Migration Board didn't see that Esmatullah could prove that his life was in danger and that the afghani state couldn't protect him from possible threats.

Then he went underground in Sweden. He hid from the Swedish border police to evade deportation. But one day, when he went to buy pizza, they took him. Esmatullah was taken into custody in wait of deportation.

At the same time in Afghanistan the talibans were looking for him. But when they didn't find Esmatullah they went after his brother and his cousin who where both murdered.

While in mourning Esmatullah was now trying to stop his deportation through showing what had happened to his brother and his relative. Despite reports via afghani television of the funeral, as well as a video where the talibans revealed that they had captured the brother and the cousin because of their work for the border police, Esmatullah´s asylum application was denied once more and he was flown back in 2012.

Witnesses told Swedish Radio that Esmatullah's mouth was being held shut when he was forced onto the plane so that he wouldn't scream out his terror and disturb the other passengers.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan was strongly critical against this and many similar deportations, because Esmatullahs case was far from the only of its kind.

"It's not defensible in a humanitarian respect, especially not if you – like this man – have been active in such a way that it is obvious that he will be persecuted or even killed" said Lotta Hedström, chairman of SAK to SR P4 Sörmland.

So, what happened to Esmatullah? I made a radio report where his friend told me that nor him or any of his remaining relatives had had contact with Esmatullah for a long time. The traces end in the mountains towards Iran. The last time anyone had contact with him he was going to try to cross the border from Afghanistan. Ever since, and that was years ago, no one ever heard from him again.

Ewa Wilks, a politican and member of the ethic commité in Sweden, was furios about the deportation and as time went by without hearing from Esmatullah she gave a lot of criticism to the swedish migration system.

"It's terrible. You can only call it a death deportation, and that is what we're really doing here in Sweden when we deport afghans with his kind of story".

I will be back with similar stories, because there are so many to be told.