Refugees send their messages to the UK

16 September 2016

Abdul, 33, left Pakistan after receiving death threats after getting married. He says: “I am Shia, and my wife is Sunni. I had a love marriage, but that was a big problem for some people. They told me to get a divorce, or they would kill me. Greece is a good country, and the people are very good, but there are no jobs, no work here. My wife is back in Pakistan. I had one daughter, but she died while I was here. She was three months old. In the future, I want a good job, and my mother and my wife with me – nothing more.”

From the war in Syria to conflict in Afghanistan, crises around the world mean millions of migrants have been forced out of their homes by war, poverty and persecution.

Pope Francis tells us that refugees are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. And when we asked you to send us your messages of hope and welcome for refugees, the response was overwhelming.

Over 8,000 of you sent messages telling refugees you are thinking of them and praying for them.

We took some of your messages to refugees living in camps in the Greek city of Athens to hear the stories of people who have fled their homes, and to hear the messages they would like to send back to people in the UK.

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Murtaza, has been in Greece for eight months, alongside his wife Ama and their two daughters, Leena, 9 and Farkhanda, 3. He says: “In Afghanistan there was a suicide attack every day. It was the very worst life, it was always dangerous. When we started we wanted to go to France, but then they closed the border, so we thought maybe Austria, but that is now closed too. It’s really difficult travelling with children. You’re playing with their lives. But to not travel? No way. There were easily 400 or 500 people a day dying at home. My message to people in the UK is that I wish you could help us. We didn’t come here for the money, most people here came to save their children’s lives. We want a safe life – nothing else.”

Fatima and her son Emir fled Afghanistan

Fatima, in her twenties and from Afghanistan, is alone with her three year old son Emir. She hopes to join her husband, who has already reached Germany, but doesn’t know if or when the borders will reopen. She says: “I have been six months living in Greece, and one month in this camp. This camp is good, there was one place in town where I was sleeping and it’s difficult for me being alone, I don’t know if a family I’m sleeping next to is good or not good. I hope I will go to Germany when the border is open again. I can’t stay in Greece, I have no home, no house, and it’s a big problem. I’m from the Hazara people [a minority group] in Afghanistan, and Daesh target us for killings. It’s not safe in Afghanistan, every day there is a bomb. European countries are good, and safe, and the children go to school. I just want to be in Germany. Every day when I wake up here the baby is crying to me ‘I want to go to Baba’ [Daddy]. I last saw my husband 10 months ago, but we speak every day.I am alone in a tent with my baby, with all the refugees living in tents next to each other.I don’t relax. Some days I think about going back to Afghanistan, but it’s not safe. I would join my husband but the border is closed. I can’t stay here. How can all these refugees stay in Greece? All the refugees are sick, it’s a big problem. Life here is not good.”

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Nasir, 65, was a highly skilled cameraman in Afghanistan. He lives in the camp with his wife and five children aged from 9 to 18. He said: “I grew up in the war, which started in 1978, and I’m very tired. My only wish for the future is that my children study, and do something good for themselves and for other people. Like their mother, a teacher of modern languages who is now teaching the other refugees, as the majority of the Afghans here can’t write. My message to the people of the UK is I just want to do everything I can for my family –my daughter wants to be a judge, so my children must be able to study.”

Karim, his wife Habiba and their son James, say they fled Iran because of religious persecution. They asked that their photograph did not show their faces. Karim says: “We converted to Christianity two years ago. Because of that, we had to leave Iran. The journey was terrible, it was so dangerous. For seven months we have been here in this camp. We would like to go to America but whether that’s possible, I don’t know. We don’t know what to think for our future, because we’re stuck here for now. My message to people in the UK is that if they can pray for us, that’s the best thing. Pray for our safety, for us settling somewhere.”

Kalpesh, 23, says life as a refugee is very hard

Kalpesh, 23, was a computer hardware student in Pakistan. He says after he fled with his brother after two of his uncles were killed. He says: “I have now been in Greece six months. I would like to go to France, Spain or Italy, where my uncle lives. It is a bad life here: I am living in a tent, I sleep on the ground, everything is dusty and dirty. I am also sick, and recently spent a month in hospital. I came here for safety, and now I’m here I won’t go back. My younger brother who is 20 is here with me also, my two sisters are married and living in Pakistan.  My brother and I want to travel on together, there are no jobs here in Greece. Here in the camp people are smiling at us and are nice to us, but if we go outside, people are very hard. If I ask somebody on the street, “please could you tell me directions” they will look at me and say “get away, get away”. Outside there is no lovely language, only people being very hard. Some Greek people have said to me that they don’t like refugees because their country is already very poor. In my heart, I am a person like everybody else. I tried three times to get to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but the police arrested me and told me to go back. My message to people in the UK is that life as a refugee is very hard.”

18-year old Farzana is from Afghanistan and is living in the camp with her mother and four siblings. She says: “If you went to Afghanistan for just one day you would see how they kill us, how they kill our brothers, our fathers. Every day there is a bomb blast.My message to people in the UK is why aren’t more of us being accepted into their country? I have been here for eight months. We don’t have money. We don’t have clothes. We don’t have shoes. Maybe the people can’t do anything, but their government, it has to think about us. They welcome Syrian people, because there is conflict there, but Afghanistan is also like this. We are humans too.”

Mohammed is a migrant from Afghanistan. See how CAFOD helps refugees and migrants

Mohammed, 25, originally from Afghanistan, says he left Iran after 20 years because it began repatriating Afghan refugees. He and his wife, along with their infant daughter, hope to reach his parents who are living in Germany. He says:“People keep asking why we left, but you should see how the conditions are. People can’t understand, we have a war at home, it’s not possible to go on living like that. Wherever we go, we won’t hurt anybody, we just want to live our lives, we just want to build a future. I would like to ask the people in the UK to feel how we feel, to try and understand us. We are all humans, we all live in the same world, eventually we will all die. So why should some of us be on top, and some of us end up on the bottom?”

Masoud says he fled Afghanistan after Daesh tried to recruit him as a frontline soldier

Masoud, 22, says he fled Afghanistan to avoid being recruited as a frontline soldier by Daesh. He says: “In Afghanistan, there is a lot of Daesh, and when I was younger, they wanted to recruit me to fight for them on the frontline. I don’t like fighting, so I left and came here. I came here alone. I would like to go on to France or Germany. Germany would be best, because I have a friend who lives there, but France is a good country for refugees. I pass the time here playing football or I go swimming at the beach. In Afghanistan I went swimming a lot and got quite good at it.Unfortunately, I didn’t have any work at home. For my future, I want to continue my journey and when I get to France I want to have a good job.It is good to be in Europe, but things will be better when I get to France. I don’t have a mobile phone or money so it’s only occasionally that I can call my family. When I arrive to France or Germany, I will be happy, but not right now.”

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Credit for all photos: Natalia Tsoukala/CAFOD

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