From Stockholm to Paris, the long journey of Afghan exiles

As many Afghans have desperately sought to leave their country since the Taliban came to power and European capitals, including Stockholm, worry about a migration crisis comparable to that of 2015, Munir (name has been changed) is distraught. This young Hazara from the Shiite minority persecuted by the Taliban, aged 21, arrived in Paris on June 26. Two days earlier, he had boarded the ferry that runs between the port of Trelleborg in southern Sweden and Travemunde in Germany. Arrested when getting off the boat, he spent a night in detention before being released and continuing his journey, towards Paris, Porte de La Chapelle.

In Sweden, where he had lived since December 2015, the young man, originally from Ghazni, had exhausted all remedies. Under a deportation order, he risked being returned to Afghanistan, even though his family is currently in Pakistan. Munir therefore waited for the graduation ceremony in his high school – proudly, he shows the photos on his cell phone. And then he left, in search of a second chance, in France.

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Today, in his Val-de-Marne accommodation center, he is wondering if he made the right choice. Because, on July 16, the Swedish government decided to suspend all returns to Afghanistan, due to the deterioration of security in the country. The moratorium is temporary and, if Munir returns to Sweden, he will be in an irregular situation. But at least there are friends and a host family. He speaks the language. And then, you never know: maybe he will end up obtaining a residence permit.

Growing opposition

In recent weeks, on the island of Gotland, Eva Hallsten has been inundated with calls: young Afghans, gone to France, wondering if they should come back; others, released from detention centers in Sweden (1,900 in total since July 16), who are considering making the opposite trip. Eva tries to advise them: “Many are very worried. For the first time in a long time, Afghans in an irregular situation are relatively safe in Sweden, as they can no longer be deported. But that does not mean that those who are in France have an interest in returning, especially if they are the subject of normal procedures and have a chance of obtaining asylum. “

Munir (the first name has been changed), an Afghan refugee who received help from Swedish associations.  In Paris, June 28, 2021.

Glass artist, in her sixties, Eva Hallsten is the one refugees call when they are about to leave Sweden. Always aware of the best routes, she tells them where to go, how to avoid checks and even organizes collections to finance the trips of those who have no money. Informed of her actions, the Swedish authorities let her do it.

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