BIHAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Fawad Khan anxiously scrolled down the news on his cellphone, watching the chaos at Kabul airport as thousands of his fellow Afghans try to flee the Taliban-controlled country in the waning days of a massive airlift.
Khan, 23, is stuck thousands of miles from home in a migrant camp in Bosnia, hoping to somehow reach Western Europe — and then help his brother in Afghanistan to join him.
“The situation in Afghanistan is very bad,” Khan said Thursday at the Lipa camp, near Bosnia’s northwestern town of Bihac. “So every people want to go outside of Afghanistan … they want to live (a) good future and life.”
Thousands of migrants, including many Afghans, are stranded in Bosnia and other Balkan countries while trying to reach wealthy European nations in search of a better future. From Bosnia, they try to cross neighboring Croatia’s closely guarded border before moving on.
While many of these Afghan migrants left their homes months, or even years ago, the Western pullout and the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan have left them feeling even more vulnerable, and concerned about those they left behind.
The Taliban have promised to restore security and not seek revenge on those who opposed them, or roll back progress on human rights. But Khan is highly skeptical.
He said he left Afghanistan two years ago as he couldn’t find work and his family had no money. Constant violence and the Taliban threat had made life hard even then: “If you work with American people, there was Taliban, (they) did not (let) us work with (Americans).”
Now, it is even worse, he said. With the Taliban in power, simple things like going to the doctor or to a market have become harder.
“I want to go to Europe because I will help my brother to bring him to Europe,” Khan said.
It won’t be easy. Already, he has tried 10 times to surreptitiously enter Croatia in the past four months and was forced back by Croatian police, who repeatedly have faced accusations of violence against migrants, which officials have denied.
Khan said Croatian police beat him, took his shoes and pushed him into a river and back to Bosnia. Authorities in Bosnia provided him with shoes and clothes and set him up at the tent camp Lipa where hundreds of other migrants already lived.
On Thursday, dozens of migrants in masks lined up outside tents in the camp where medical workers checked their temperatures and vaccinated them against the new coronavirus.
Khan was happy to be inoculated amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in the Balkans. But his real worry was elsewhere: While he used to talk to his brother regularly on the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, he hasn’t heard from him for two weeks.
And, Khan said, with return to Afghanistan impossible, closed borders are blocking his own hopes of moving on, and eventually helping his brother.
“Croatia police (is) big problem we have,” he said, “We want to go quickly because situation is not good in Afghanistan, we want to go quickly, we (want to) help our families. It is really tough for us.”
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