Views from the ground – Zia:
“I just had to leave Afghanistan.”

The following story was originally compiled for the Mixed Migration Review 2019 and has been reproduced here for wider access through this website’s readership.

4Mi survey conducted in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, August 2018.[1]

In the end the violence got so bad I just had to leave. This was three years ago. Everyone seemed to have the same idea. I am 23 and come from Pul-i-Aalam, in the Logar province of Afghanistan, about a two-hour drive from Kabul. It wasn’t just the general insecurity and terrorist attacks that made up my mind, other things were getting worse too: basic services and rights, freedom of expression. I just wanted a better life, to live in peace and free from oppression.

To find out how to go about making my long journey and what route to take, I spoke to my family, friends, people in the Afghan diaspora, and also to local smugglers. On the road, I stayed in touch with them and with other migrants I met, using different apps on my smartphone. There are also several specialized websites that were helpful.

I first headed to Iran. On the border, in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, I paid $100 in bribes to government officials.

When I got to Tehran, I was abducted by smugglers and a group of criminals. They threatened to hurt me, and I had to pay them $300 to be released. But generally I used several smugglers to get to Europe.
Some were government officials. Different smugglers gave me shelter, food and water, general information, documents, transit across borders, accommodation, transport from and to holding places,
and they dealt with authorities. When I reached a new place, I was either handed over by the previous smuggler to a new one, or new smugglers found me, or sometimes other migrants put me in touch with another one.

Then I made my way to Izmir, in Turkey. At the border, immigration officials physically restrained and detained me, but I was eventually released without paying any fine or bribe. While in Turkey, I managed to find smugglers to organize a sea crossing to Greece.

The next leg of the journey took me through North Macedonia and Serbia, and then through Hungary
and Austria. Many refugees and migrants hoping to travel north found themselves stuck at the Greece-Macedonia border.

Finally, after a journey that involved a lot of walking, as well buses, trucks and trains, I reached Germany, where I now have refugee status. Friends, family and others in my community helped with the initial funds for my journey. Before leaving, I estimated it would cost about $4,500 but, in the end, I paid about $7,800, with $5,400 of that going to smugglers. Before leaving, I wasn’t really aware of all the risks, and now that I am, I would not encourage others to migrate too.

In Afghanistan I was a student, now I do casual work but don’t earn enough send money home to my family as I had hoped. I think I will stay here for no more than five years and then move on to another country. Eventually things in Afghanistan will get better and I will go home, live in peace and have some
kind of career.


[1]‘Views from the ground’ presents six stories from migrants and refugees on the move, drawn directly from their responses to the 4Mi survey. As the surveys consist almost entirely of multiple-choice questions, these narratives, while presented in the first person, are not verbatim quotations, but they do faithfully reflect respondents’ answers and the geopolitical context of their journeys. 4Mi does not record names or other personally identifiable information and so all names are aliases.