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Two Afghans trekking to France have lessons for evacuees | WGN 720 radio

Paris (AP) – One slept in the streets of Paris and the other in a large temporary immigration camp in northern France.

Nassrullah Youssoufi and Abdul Wali were among more than a million refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015. The two Afghans do not know each other, but share a horrific past of fleeing their homes on foot, by bus, by train. or by ferry. And they landed in a new country where they had no right, or even the right, to stay.

A few years later, the man lives legally in France, one working as an interpreter for an asylum court in the capital and another working in a restaurant in the northeast of the country. They have the experience of struggling to provide a roadmap to reach Afghanistan, like the thousands of people who fled to the United States, Europe and elsewhere after the Taliban regained control of Kabul last month. is.

Youssoufi and Wali Tips: Accept the difference, love your new life and learn the local language.

For the 124,000 people flown from Afghanistan in a US-led evacuation last month, the most tragic part of their journey was passing through checkpoints, gun battles and a desperate crowd to reach Kabul airport. There may have been.

However, many more Afghans found their own way before the Taliban takeover, and more are expected to flee in the months to come. People in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia who knocked on Europe’s doors six years ago have paid smugglers for months, sometimes years, to cross borders.

Youssoufi (32 years old) and Wali (31 years old) seem to use internal resources which have helped them to survive.

Become “normal”

When they arrived in France in 2015 and 2016 respectively, there was no Youssoufi or Wali welcome mat or refugee service.

Wari spent the first 10 months in a huge temporary immigrant camp in a port in northern Calais. Thousands of camps, called “jungles”, were known for their size and unsanitary, sometimes violent, conditions. The asylum seekers gathered there hoped for a new life in England across the Channel.

When the French government decided to close the camp, Warri helped authorities load thousands of other immigrants onto buses to assigned homes across France. He boarded the last “jungle” bus on October 27, 2016, after departing immigrants burned the rest of the building. His government bus takes him to Strasbourg. Strasbourg is a town with half-timbered houses on the border with Germany and seat of the European Parliament.

He only had his back clothes, official documents and the yellow vest he wore to help shelter. He then brought Best to the asylum – valuable proof of his work on behalf of the French government.

Wari remembers crying on a long bus to a new and unknown world. However, obtaining refugee status in Strasbourg changed her life and allowed her to find a job in a small restaurant and put a roof on her head.

“I am very happy to be here now,” he said. “I’m not scared at night” like an immigrant curry camp. “You have a job. You have your job, you come home. You pay the rent. You are an ordinary person.

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To be lucky

Youssoufi started living in France on the streets after a tragic trip from Afghanistan for a year and a half. This included a three-month detention in Hungary for illegal entry.

Then he remembers: “I’m lucky. When asked why he was late for class in the morning, a French teacher took him away when he explained that he was homeless. She has become a treasure trove of complex asylum processes and her information for navigating the university system.

“I think of her as my mother,” he said.

There are few services for the tens of thousands of immigrants who congregate in the streets of Europe. In France, the number of homeless camps has exploded since 2015. The European government is throwing itself into a new wave of asylum seekers following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Wari was terribly aware of his unwanted position when he lived at Curry Camp in 2016. Everyone hates us now, ”he said at the time.

Neither Wari nor Yussoufi have complained of discrimination from the French, although President Emmanuel Macron called last month for a European initiative to “predict and protect us from large flows of immigrants.” Hmm.

“Everyone is nice to me,” Wari said. When he goes to the bar to watch a football game and cheers on his favorite French team, Lille, “I order drinks… I pay them, sometimes I tip them. He said.

“If I had been discriminated against, I wouldn’t have been there until now,” Yussoufi said.

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Endless journey

When you’re not working as an interpreter or studying for a law degree in an asylum court, Youssoufi opens a court in the Afghan market, a grocery store in northern Paris, where Afghans seek advice and translate documents. officials. I help you do it.

In a nearby restaurant, he recently met a representative of an Afghan association trying to help an activist looking for an outing in France.

“I said: ‘I must do something for my compatriots’ because Afghanistan is in the hands of the Taliban,” said Yusophie, who has acquired French nationality.

In Afghanistan, his Hazara ethnic group has long been the target of other Afghans, including the Taliban. He was five years old when his father, an Afghan general, was assassinated.

“I went through it. I’m living it again, ”Youssoufi said.

Meanwhile, Wari is heartbroken as he asks permission to take his wife to his home in Strasbourg. He hasn’t seen her near his hometown in eastern Afghanistan, Laghman, since her marriage in Pakistan last year.

With the Taliban now dominating Afghanistan, Warri has become more urgent to have his wife by his side. Daughter of a former Afghan government official, she is in hiding.

However, the immigration office continues to tell Warri to wait, he said, and the French Crisis Center, which is dedicated to evacuating Afghanistan, did not answer his question. He hired a lawyer to ask the authorities for his plea.

Wari feels his wife is failing.

“She’s scared,” he said. “She’s still crying.”

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It’s a new world

Wali and Youssoufi agree that learning French is a must for newly arrived Afghans looking for a home here.

“Obviously you are a little lost when you realize that you are in another country and you don’t know the language or the culture,” Youssoufi said.

Youssoufi also underlines the importance of adhering to secular French values. He says it’s a way of bringing some Afghans home when they say “the first thing for us is religion” or when we don’t want our wife to learn French.

“For me, the only religion is humanity,” Youssoufi said. He tells the Afghans to help with the management process. ” We are in France. We must respect our values… they are (now) our identities. ”

Wari reflects Yussoufi’s belief in the importance of learning communication.

“When you speak French, you can help yourself and others,” he said, and Afghans without a language turn to him to help solve the problem. ..

But her first piece of advice is to keep a healthy attitude despite the difficulty of being a foreigner.

It is this positive attitude that Warri imagines the day his wife will eventually join him in Strasbourg.

“I will take him the next day to learn French,” he said. He also doesn’t hesitate if she wants to learn to drive, which Afghan women usually don’t go home.

“The women here are free,” Wari said.

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Follow AP migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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