Refugee stories from Eastern Europe
December 2, 2015
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Editor’s Note: As the refugee crisis in Europe has morphed into a political issue in the United States, CCN reporter Josh Friedman has traveled Eastern Europe, meeting refugees and watching the waves of mass migration. The following is the first of two articles on Europe’s refugee crisis. The names of the refugees are not being published either in the article or captions to make it more difficult for them to be targeted.
An Afghan man is seeking refuge after the Taliban chopped his hand off because he was an Afghan government worker. A Syrian man speaks of Hezbollah razing his village and a Pakistani says he is running away from bombs and targeted killings.
In the refugee camps of Eastern Europe, refugees tell stories of war, oppression and terror. CalCoastNews cannot independently verify most of the stories, but many refugees say they are fleeing imminent death in their home countries.
“If we see you again, we will kill you, and we will kill all of your family members,” Taliban fighters allegedly told the Afghan after cutting off his hand.
The man’s crime was that he worked for the Afghan government, the man’s cousin says.
A second group of Afghans also say that the Taliban kills people who work for the Afghan government. ISIS does, too, they add.
“ ‘Why you working in the government? Why are you working with the Americans? Why are you working with the foreign people?’ ” Taliban and ISIS militants reportedly say.
As Syria’s four-year-old civil war continues, the Taliban continues the fight in Afghanistan, religious groups clash and ISIS battles to create a caliphate, refugees have poured into Turkey and Europe.
Syrians currently in Europe and Turkey have said the Assad regime, ISIS and other militant groups have forced them to leave their homes. One such group is Hezbollah, which fights on the side of the Syrian government.
A refugee from Syria said Hezbollah raided his village. They took over the land, houses and buildings. The man’s brother was shot in the neck, and he died 20 days later in the hospital, the refugee said. The deceased man’s son is accompanying his uncle and other relatives on the journey to Europe.
Some refugees escaped their countries only to die along the way.
Thousands of refugees have tried to cross the Mediterranean or from Turkey to Greece in inflatable boats. Hundreds died at sea in 2015.
Others have risked their lives as some governments use violence. There are reports that Iranian police opened fire on Afghan refugees. Afghan refugee Mujeeburahman Malikzada said he witnessed Iranian police shoot and kill three of his friends.
The trouble continues for some upon arriving in Europe, they say. Bulgarian border police allegedly extorted money from the group of Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban violence and beat one of them. He showed the scars and bruises on his face to a reporter.
Another refugee walking around a makeshift campground in spent about a year in Bulgarian jail, he said.
Human rights groups have accused the Bulgarian police of beating refugees and demanding bribes. One refugee recently died after a warning shot fired by a Bulgarian officer reportedly ricocheted and struck the migrant, the Guardian reported.
In September, Hungary sealed its border with Serbia. The move rerouted refugees through Croatia. Hungary then sealed its border with Croatia.
Some countries in Central Europe like Germany, the most popular destination for refugees, followed suit and imposed border controls. Following the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks, the border controls increased and several European states changed their policies on asylum claims.
A logjam of refugees has since built up in the Balkans. Numerous refugees became trapped at the Greek-Macedonian border after several governments decided to stop accepting refugees who come from countries other than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last week, refugees from Iran conducted a hunger strike in no man’s land between Greece and Macedonia. Some of the Iranian refugees sewed their lips shut in protest of the Macedonian government’s decision to block the border.
Clashes ensued between some of the refugees and Macedonian police. Macedonian soldiers are putting up a fence on the border.
It is unclear how Europe will handle the refugees who have arrived but are not eligible for asylum. Winter is coming, and snow has begun to fall in the Balkans.
Like CCN on Facebook.