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Locked in and locked out

  • 23 March 2021
I am a refugee from Afghanistan, and I belong to a minority ethnic group, the Hazaras. We have been persecuted for a long time because of our ethnicity, religion, and values. In 2012, I was forced to leave Afghanistan. I was 17. Back home, my father was a medical doctor. The Taliban accused him of working with international armed forces in the country at the time. One day the Taliban took him away, and nobody has seen him since.  

The accusations against my father meant that the whole family was ‘criminal’ in the Taliban’s eyes. We had to repay them in blood. They kept contacting us and saying that I had to report to them. My mother knew that if I did report to them, they would kill me. She did what any mother would do and decided to send me to a safe country.

We learned quickly that safe countries were not issuing visas to Afghan citizens. I had no choice but to attempt a much more dangerous and uncertain journey, crossing many borders, travelling by plane, train, car, boat, and by foot, often for days in the middle of the night. I knew the chance of survival was rare and that I would end up detained or even dead. But I had no choice.

At the time, I was very young. I had never travelled by myself. I did not know where I was going, how long the journey would be, who I was going to meet on the way, and how to trust those we were paying to get me to safety.

I can never forget the day that I left my family, home, country, and my community. On that day, I felt that I would never see them again. Even today I feel that part of my life is missing.

My journey to safety was full of profoundly scary moments, moments I thought my life would end. I remember being on a fishing boat to Australia. The boat had the capacity to carry 30 people but was carrying 90. Hours after we departed, the engine broke down. We were lost in the middle of the sea, at the mercy of the waves. The people on board felt much tension, anger, despair.

'I remember thinking: these are the last moments of my life. My life is ending here in the middle of the sea. I will not be able to see my