I came to Slovenia in 2015. We came by buses from Serbia and as we were waiting to cross the Slovenian-Austrian border they explained that Slovenia is also a member of the European Union where we can ask for asylum. We were three friends from Afghanistan who stepped out of the line of thousands of people waiting for a transport to Germany and we walked up to the police. We asked for asylum.
We were accommodated in the Asylum Center Vič. Soon I got to know the whole Ljubljana. I made many friends, did a bunch of things and was around all the time. My friends liked to say that I had become a true Ljubljana citizen.
Organizations to help refugees operated n the Asylum Center. I got involved in all their activities. I am a musician. And a painter. They were happy I came and showed off what I did. I thought all these activities would help me get the papers. I didn’t like it that the workshops often lasted only a few minutes. To take photos. And then it was over. But I continued drawing and painting, I even painted several of the walls in the Asylum Center and made paintings, which were hung in the halls.
Few months later I received a negative.
Suddenly, the world collapsed in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe that a country I came to love so much and had become part of it denied my asylum application. They said that I hadn’t presented evidence my life had been endangered. How can I present proofs of the village imam, associated with the Taliban, threatening to kill me for playing music? Should he issue me a document stating his attempt to murder me? No, I didn’t have anything like that. But they also didn’t grant a status to anyone else from Afghanistan. One hadn’t presented the evidence, the other could move to Kabul. Afghanistan is a safe country, was the official Slovenian position. My two friends also received a negative. All Afghanis that year. Up to this day I still don’t understand why did they tell us in Šentilj that day we could request asylum if they knew we wouldn’t get it. We could have continued to Germany like everybody else. Most of them got the papers, but none of us three.
After the negative I walked around Ljubljana with a thick map of confirmation letters I had got from the organizations that were supposed to help refugees. I took part in many of their projects and had many confirmation letters. But when I called them to help me after I got the negative, they all turned away. No one seemed to know me anymore. They all just said: “I am sorry.” I took my papers to the lawyer who explained the confirmation letters couldn’t help. I didn’t understand. I participated in all these workshops so Slovenia would understand I want to get included, that I want to try to be a part of my new surroundings?
Despite poor chances I decided to file an appeal. My two friends escaped to Italy but I decided to fight for my new home. But I saw my life in the Asylum Center differently. I could see that the whole asylum system is a mafia. People who benefit from refugees. People who say they want to help but when you need help pretend they don’t know you. Organizations that earn a lot of money to organize activities for refugees but lose interest when you get the negative. I don’t need activities and workshops and games. I am an adult. I need papers! Work and residency permit! Protection from persecution!
One day I learned that one of the organizations received 80.000 Euros to organize a celebration for World Refugee Day. Shocked, I told this to everyone. What did we refugees get from this organization? A pencil, each.
Soon I was summoned to the director’s office. He wanted to know where I had got that information. I didn’t tell him. He put 10 Euros on the table and asked me to be quiet and let him know if I needed anything. Really? 10 Euros? A 10 Euros bribe? We refugees are cheap but not this cheap. It was more and more difficult to watch the mafia of the Asylum Center. Everybody earns on refugees and we get a monthly allowance of 18 Euros. Tell me, is 18 Euros all there is of human rights we came here to find? With 18 Euros you become a child – you can neither buy the food you like nor have coffee with friends. You depend on the shampoo you are given, on the tea boiled for you. This is hard, especially if before you were already an adult.
The desperation due to the negative and the whole situation made me start to fall apart as a human. I was destroying myself. I became a shadow of my former self. But I kept going. I really wanted to stay. I was trying but also killing myself. Everyone who knows me remembers I was not well. In the meantime my wife in Afghanistan died. She had cancer. Our little daughter went to stay with my mum. I was crying and crying.
After the last negative they locked me up in Postojna. Postojna is a center for deportations. But I didn’t want to take part in that; I am not crazy. I can never go back to my country. Only death waits for me there. After some months in this prison I was released but before I left an inspector ordered me to get out of the country or they would lock me up again and deport me for real. Yet, I didn’t leave. Although I ended up living on the street. A kind older lady then accepted me to her home. I kept trying to fit in. I prepared exhibitions of my paintings, performed in concerts. And I continued to destroy myself.
After time the pressure destroyed me, I couldn’t handle it anymore. When I learned the police was looking for me at the house, I understood that the time of the deportation had arrived. I packed my belongings and ran. I came to Barcelona, where I am now. I am still waiting to get the papers but here I at least have hope to get them. Spain is a big country but not once did I hear anyone say that Afghanistan is a safe country. When I arrived the police told me that I had fingerprints in Slovenia. I got afraid that they would send me back. But they didn’t and said I needn’t have worried. Slovenia is a small village; people aren’t send back there, where they don’t respect human rights. It is true. Slovenia for me is not part of the European Union. They treated us vilely. How to explain how degrading it is, when you had escaped being killed, to hear people say there is no problem if you returned. They told me, I could stop playing music and I would be no more in danger. How can they say something like this? I am a musician, how can I stop playing music? They could just as well say I can stop breathing and the Taliban wouldn’t kill me, since I would die before. A truly great solution.
I look forward to the day I get my papers. You know what I will do? I will return to Slovenia and go visit the inspector in Postojna. I will throw my passport in his face and ask him why Slovenia is the only country that doesn’t admit the war in Afghanistan.
Until then I will continue to drive tourists around Barcelona in my rikshaw. Do you know I am in the selection for the best Barcelona photo of 2019? My rikshaw is so beautifully decorated I have become an attraction. In Slovenia I never got the work permit. Here I have worked since I arrived. I ride the rikshaw. I continue to paint. I am happy. But bitterness lingers when I think of Slovenia. I have lost two years of my life there. But I also have many friends there. If I could have stayed, I would have. If they hadn’t given me the negative, I wouldn’t have destroyed myself so much. But I had. And then I ran. And saved myself. I saved my life. Can you imagine? I had first saved my life when I had escaped Afghanistan and then I saved my life when I escaped Slovenia. They should be quiet and not speak of human rights; they know nothing about them.