Driven away by Norway and drowned by Greece

Driven away by Norway and drowned by Greece

Eshanolla Safi. Photograph by Eurokinisi
 

The different story of an Afghan refugee, one of the survivors of the tragedy of Farmakonisi, the chronicle of the drama and the mystery of the testimonies. Soul searching from Eshanolla Safi (photo).

Sunday, 26 January 2014. The migrants who survived at Farmakonisi are gathered at the offices of the Afghan community, just a few metres from the hotel where they are staying in the centre of Athens. Along with tens of representatives of international organisations who are collecting data in an attempt to contribute to the clarification of the tragedy. Sitting at an oval table, silently, with a mug of coffee in hand they beckon at our entrance. Sitting at the back is a middle-aged Norwegian in origin who is chatting with 39-year old Eshanolla Safi and keeping notes on a piece of paper of what he tells him. Safi is one of the survivors of Farmakonisi, but his story is different. Not because it is more dramatic, but because he has become a victim of Europe and its policy for the second time.

Safi left Afghanistan six years ago as a refugee and went to Norway, where he filed an application for asylum. As he says, during his stay there, he received a work permit and provided to the Norwegian state by paying taxes. However, in late 2012, after nearly six years of residence in the Scandinavian country, he was informed that he should return to his homeland. Safi was expelled from paradise to hell. The return to Afghanistan would undoubtedly have meant his death sentence and that of his family. His wife, a teacher by profession, was already tainted by the Taliban, while he had been declared an outlaw, already known for his attempt to escape the violence in Afghanistan for a better future in the friendly West. During the year that Safi remained in his homeland, he planned his escape and return to Europe. This time with the whole of his family: his wife and four children. But their journey was to stop at the Greek-Turkish border.

“We would have been saved if we had not been found”

The Afghan refugee, his family, along with a group of their compatriots and a Syrian family set off from the coast of Turkey last Monday evening. “We set off at around 10 to 11 in the evening” Safi remembers. “After about two hours, we had almost arrived. We were about 100 metres from the shore when the engine of the boat stopped working, because it was hot. We decided to jump into the sea and make a chain using our hands to draw the children ashore. Then we were spotted by the coast guard. They shot in the air and shouted at us to sit down. Two men from the coast guard jumped onto our boat. Someone from their boat threw a rope and tied the bow in order to pull us. The coast guard vessel began to accelerate, even making manoeuvres. Suddenly the iron hook to which the rope was tied broke, and timbers from the bow of the boat were detached. Water began to enter the boat. The coast guards who were still on our boat shouted to the coast guards on the other boat to stop.”

Safi could not understand what they were saying, but he was sure that were shouting for the boat to stop. He remembers the coast guards shouting “asshole, asshole, asshole” at their colleagues on board. Finally, the coast guard speedboat stopped. “The two coast guards” Safi explains “went back to their own boat, threw a second rope and asked Chaimpar, the Syrian who was driving the boat and knew English, to tie the rope somewhere else, as he did. We thought that they would get us out, but instead they accelerated. The water in our boat reached our waists. We were desperately shouting please help us and they would answer fuck you!”

“This is how they drowned us” READ MORE

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