60 Minutes: Afghan Children
Can you believe American troops have been in Afghanistan for 12 years? Though we may have heard about war in the news, the average American probably does not know much about daily life in the country, where poverty and violence are commonplace. Anderson Cooper has been tracking a migration of Afghan children attempting to escape to Europe.
60 Minutes: Dangerous Journey
Throughout Europe, groups of Afghan boys are seeking better lives. Some make it to Greece, but the journey east can take years. Sometimes they stow away in vans or trucks, stashed in secret compartments.
This migration is the largest of its type in the modern world. The journey can include Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Greece, as much as 10,000 miles across multiple mountain ranges and two seas.
60 Minutes: Afghani Children Flee
Anderson Cooper has interviewed many of the boys who escaped their home country. They said the future looked bleak and they did not have safety or prospects for a future.
Ali Hassan escaped at age 11 with his siblings and got a job in Iran. Then he learned his siblings had been deported, and Ali was confused and afraid. That is when he decided to pursue a better life in Europe and hope to ring his family to him in the future.
A friend paid a smuggler to transport him to Europe. The four-year journey included over two days in a refrigerated truck, where he nearly froze to death. He said that smugglers did not treat their passengers well, even threatening to kill them.
60 Minutes: Afghan Smugglers To Europe
Money is the fuel that drives this migratory process, as boys have to get jobs that last months or years to earn up to $15,000 to pay smugglers to get them to Europe. Some of them are aided by their families from the start, who may sell land to raise the money.
Though the outside world may think conditions have improved in the country. But Alixandra Fazzina said that most of the country’s children don’t have education or hope for the future. The photojournalist said she spent five years tracking boys in their journeys.
60 Minutes: Afghanistan Conditions
The dangerous journey, she said, is symbolic of a country’s desperation. The boys are vulnerable and susceptible to the sometimes nefarious whims and abuses of smugglers. Wazir Gul recalled others who traveled with him, who were abused or violated along the way.
Another boy said that he hid under a moving truck at one point along the way, and was jailed for entering one of the countries illegally. He said being in jail felt like death, but he was able to escape and enter into Greece.
60 Minutes: Afghan Boys Die
Getting into Greece can be difficult, and many of the Afghan boys die along the journey, leaving behind meager possessions. Recently, in Mytyliene, the bodies of 21 Afghans washed ashore.
One man survived: 17-year-old Murtaza. His message for those still in Afghanistan was to stay put, or face certain death along the journey.
The end of the journey in Europe is not the paradise that some are expecting, especially in tumultuous Greece. They could make it all the way before ending up in an adult detention center.
60 Minutes: Afghan Boys Migrate
Hayat, age 11, was detained but released due to his young age. He was eventually granted asylum in England. Ali Hassan said that he was beaten by Greek police along the way, despite his young age.
The difficult journey does not seem to deter those left behind, despite the dangerous conditions. Parents back in Afghanistan are unlikely to know what is actually going on through the journey.
Fazzina said the boys are reluctant to be honest with their families back home, especially if parents have made financial sacrifices for their children. But in most of Europe, they could be deported by the laws of many countries.
60 Minutes: Afghan Boys Deportation
If you are unable to prove your age or other circumstances of your story, you could also face deportation. It sounds like the options do not get better, even if you are successful in making the long and arduous journey.
Wazir Gul said that he would kill himself rather than be deported to Afghanistan and face death upon his return. Sweden is the young men’s best shot at asylum, according to Anderson Cooper.
The Swedish government has been especially accommodating, and in 2012 it allowed almost 2,000 minors to get asylum and begin the new lives they were hoping for.
60 Minutes: Afghan Boys Asylum In Sweden
Ali Hassan said that he feels at home in Sweden, where he is fed and taken care of. He learned recently that his siblings, who were deported from Iran, have now made it to Pakistan as refugees.
He still hopes to reunite with his family one day in the future. For the time being, Hassan said he feels that he is alive for the first time, because he is free and he knows that his siblings are out there.