Finding Refuge: The story of a boy and a nation

Countries that once led the way are now starting to let the world down. No, this isn’t another tale of post-Trump USA or the AfD or the BJP or Temer (This is not a short list).

If you’ll allow me, through this OpEd, I want to look at Norway, Wasim and the greatest humanitarian crisis known to man.

When it comes to responding the global refugee crisis, Norway is a fascinating country. As per the Borgen Project, Norway has come a long way towards helping refugees from different wars and conflict zones. In 2016, Norway contributed one of the largest pledges of humanitarian aid aimed at helping Syrian refugees. The small country pledged $1.2 billion dollars ($240 per person) toward four years of funding. Since 2013, Norway had citizenship to over 260 percent of its “fair share” of Syrian refugees, making it an active participant in the rehabilitation and care-taking process. But in 2015 changed things .With modifications in the immigration laws, the number of refugees entering Norway reduced drastically. We wrote about it in late 2016, when we looked at the changing mindset of the leadership in Norway. One year later, in November 2017- Norway had admitted just 2,000 refugees over the year. This is a sharp fall from 30,000 the year before that.  That was the year Sweden took in well over 150,000 refugees.

While the numbers speak out about a Norway that has changed it’s take on refugees- on how it welcomes and how many it welcomes, there are some anecdotes that show us that things might not be perfect for those who enter.

It was 2015, when mass migration from several conflict zones changed the way how Europeans thought about refugees.

Wasim Mohammadi, then 15,  came to Norway  from Afghanistan. He was born in Logar (located in the eastern section of the country) and drove to Kabul, covered in female clothing so he could cross the check-points in the country. From Kabul he planned an escape across the border to Pakistan. From Pakistan his route took him to Iran, Turkey, Hungary, Nederlands, Germany, Sweden then eventually Oslo, Norway.

In Norway he lived in an asylum camp for refugees who were minors. He started high school and learned Norwegian in few months. He developed strong relationship with his teachers but he hated the camp. He lived under the perennial fear of the deportation. One night the police came to his room that he was sharing with other young Afghan refugees. It was 4 in the morning, the police said they would pick people and put them in buses. Take them to the airport and send them to Kabul.

“Kabul is not a red zone, it is still safe to be there” they said.

They didn’t take Wasim. Not that night. When he turned 18, it was his turn. He was to be deported back to Kabul. Wasim doesn’t know anyone in Kabul, he has no contact with his family and he has no friends that he knows of. There is no future in Afghanistan. Wasim could work in Norway, he could finally give back to the Norwegian society. He had a few months left of high school. He had his teachers and his Norwegian friends. His teachers decided to help Wasim, they bought him a ticket to Paris and told him to wait in France and hopefully return back to Norway. When Wasim came to Paris, he lived in a tent under a bridge close to the train station. He had 10 Euros in his pocket. He found himself in another land where he didn’t know anyone, didn’t know what awaited him and didn’t know the language.  When asked to hope for the best, he said he had no hope.

Looking at his case as an example, that may or may not speak for the lack of planning in deportation.

Kabul, is not a safe zone. Anyone who says so has not picked up a newspaper in the last week, or the week before that and maybe, ever. Afghanistan’s interior minister said that at least 103 people were killed in a suicide bombing carried out by the Taliban in Kabul last weekend, another 235 people were wounded in the attack. News like this is massively commonplace (three attacks in the last week) and as unfortunate as that is, it can’t be said that things look like they would improve soon. There have been over five different terrorist attacks in Kabul in January, 2018 and the month is not over yet. Logar, his homeplace, was attacked by attacked By More Than 700 Taliban fighters in 2014. In the same year, NATO-led forces killed 3 civilians as a part of the ISAF mandate, after assuming they were insurgents.

On the whole, Afghanistan is troubled by Taliban, ISIS and a volatile neighborhood. The changing of guard in the White House hasn’t done much to help. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016. President Trump continues to let down people from around the world, but to be fair, we knew these were people he never cared for much in the first place.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 65 million people had been displaced in 2016. If we can’t count on the countries that were beacons of hope for refugees coming from conflict zones as shown by the example of Norway and Wasim, we may have to worry about the ramifications of the greatest (and most global) humanitarian crisis that mankind has ever seen.

And we, as a global society, are not well-equipped to deal with it.

Wasim’s story was shared to members of our team by Wasim and have been reported as such. 
Anmol Soin

Anmol Soin

Managing Editor at InPRA
Anmol Soin has finished his post-graduate education from the University of Oxford and the University of St.Andrews. Anmol will always credit his academic growth to his time at St.Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Formerly engaged as a consultant and a researcher for the 14th Finance Commission (Government of India), he has also worked for the Knowledge Partnership Program (IPE Global and UK Government’s Department For International Development).

He was also the Professor for ‘The Economics of International Relations and Geopolitics’ for the final year undergraduates at NMIMS. Having worked at multiple think-tanks, he brings his experiences as a professor and a consultant together to try and frame a comprehensive overview of International Economics for InPRA.
Anmol Soin