Tag Archives: refugee

A meeting with the devil

Mosque in Van - P.Martino

4th post. The kaçakçılar , human traffickers, have neither business cards nor sales offices. They mingle with the people in the alleys, in the cafés, in the square in front of the mosque. Shifty, invisible, always on the migrants’ route, they could be the only way to find Mussa Khan’s tracks again

Naqeeb gets me out of bed at 6.30 in the morning. “Get up, kardash ! We have to go sign before the line forms. Hurry!” Sign? Line? Too complicated: I follow him mechanically, my thoughts still numb with sleep.

The city is noisily waking up: in the streets, one after the other, the stores’ shutters roll up, minibuses hunk their horns at roundabouts, pedal rickshaws rove offloading goods in the already crammed alleys. Naqeeb keeps stopping to greet people in the Pashtun manner: a big hug followed by a mutual tap on the right shoulders.

On the dolmus , the crowded minibus, Naqeeb finally tells me why we had to get so up so early. “All asylum seekers have to sign a register. Men sign on Tuesdays and Thursdays, women on Wednesdays”. At the police station I understand the reason for such a hurry: many people are still waiting for their turn and the line quickly gets longer and longer before my eyes. “No one can leave Van, punishment for those who do not sign is severe”, Naqeeb says. “To avoid anyone escaping, the police requisitions passports when asylum seekers arrive in Van. We get them back only on the day we leave, decided by the UN refugee agency”. Continue reading


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The Turkish trap

Turkish residence permit for foreigners - P.Martino

3rd post. Still in Van and of Mussa Khan, no news.   The journey amongst the Afghan muhajirins continues: trapped in the Turkish city, in the limbo of temporary asylum waiting to continue their journey, even illegally, through Greece and Italy

The Milky Way is the silvery roof of the sleepless upland: at dead of night the alleys of Van keep swarming with discrete trades, while up above, in the pale and distant sky, the light of the stars keeps pulsing coldly.

I give up on the idea of the expedition to Yuksekova: it is complicated and has little chance of success, so I decide to focus on continuing my researches in the city. I spend my whole Sunday in the streets, and together with Shahin we chase suggestions, images, any hint that can lead me on Mussa’s tracks.

We go back to the neighborhoods surrounding the castle, wander in the suburbs and loiter in theotogar , the bus station just outside the city. It is just a failed attempt, though: muhajirins do not leave traces of their presence. The day winds up in front of the computer: no e-mail, no message on Facebook. Mussa has cut off contact with the world. Continue reading

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On the trails of Mussa Khan

Van, near the border with Iran - johncumbers /flickr

1st post. Months, years, constantly moving. Rejected, invisible, on the margins. This is the destiny of the Afghan muhajirins , on a tenacious search for the dream called “Europe”. With the episodes of the “Mussa Khan” blog, we are going to tell their odyssey through Turkey, Greece and Italy, until the Ostiense Station in Rome

“This is Kurdistan, not Turkey!”  His eyes stormy, Taha is very convincing.  After three weeks of border crossings and a thousand different languages, I stumble on the easiest of words: “Thank you.”  “No problem!” he reassures me with a smile. Then he takes me by the arm and walks me to the city center through a labyrinth of alleys crowded with the tables and stools of tea shops.

Shahin, who for three to four days will be my interpreter, is waiting for us.  A recent graduate, wearing a striped shirt and black leather shoes, he doesn’t inspire much confidence with his tremulous voice.  His employ  is the result of tenacious research on the part of Taha, whom I had met just one hour earlier on the bus. After introductions, a cup of tea, and a shoeshine, we got to work. Mussa Khan will soon be in the area and, before he arrives, I want to have a full understanding of the situation Afghan refugees face when they arrive in Van, Turkey, the arrival point for those coming by way of Iran. Continue reading

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