As narrated by an Afghan man to Dr Natasha Remoundou in late April 2019.

That morning the Taliban broke into our house. They beat me and my mother so bad and locked us in a bedroom. My father was not at home as he was in the army. We stayed in the room locked and terrified until night fell and then one of the Taliban unlocked the door and I escaped with my mother. I was so badly injured that I had to go to the hospital. I thought my injuries were not that serious but when I went to the hospital I got stitches on my head. I was only 16 years old. Then my mother talked to someone and I escaped the country by car. The Afghan driver was unknown to me and he drove me to Pakistan. My mother had arranged everything so that I would be saved. My mother stayed behind. They killed her. Still to this day, I do not know where my father is. In Pakistan, I had an aunt who lived there with her family. She is my mother’s sister. When I went to Pakistan I stayed in the hospital for three weeks because I was bleeding on my head. Then my aunt told me that I had to leave the country. I was posing a threat to her own family and her husband was not happy with me staying with them. They were afraid that they would be in trouble as the Taliban were looking for me.

I crossed the borders again with a group of people. My aunt and her husband found people to take me out of the country. So I left Pakistan and crossed again the borders with a group of other people and reached Iran. I stayed there for a year. It was very tough there. I did not know anyone there and it was very difficult my time there. I met a few Afghan people—most of them illegal—who gave me a place to stay and I worked for a year sewing clothes for very little money. I could not complain because I was illegally in the country and if I got caught they would deport me to Syria. Because I had no legal documents, there were only two options available for me if I got caught: either to go join the army and fight in Syria in the war or go back to my country Afghanistan. I have a lot of friends who were coerced and recruited to become Hazara (Shi’a) fighters. I did not want to do this.

From Iran I walked with a group of people through the mountains to Turkey and from there we took a boat to Mytilini, an island in Greece. We tried a few times to reach the shore. I saw people drowning. From the fifty people we set off with only fifteen of us made it to Mytilini. I don’t know how to swim. Even people wearing vests drowned.

In Mytilini, twenty or thirty of us got arrested by the police and we were put into jail for six to seven months. But I was lucky. You can stay for up to two years in prison for no reason. Just for crossing the borders. Just because you are a refugee. After I was released from prison I was given a document stating that I had one month to leave the country. If within this month you fail to do so, they put you back in prison or they deport you back to your country of origin. I was broke and knew no one there. It was difficult to leave Greece. From Mytilini, I borrowed money and took a ferry to Piraeus. Once I arrived in Athens I had no connections. If you don’t make friends you have problems. And that is the same everywhere. Greece was a beautiful country, but I didn’t like it there. There was a lot of racism. A large group of people, around fifty of them, would attack you in squares wearing black T-shirts and balaclavas. This never happened to me but to my friend. I never went out at night-time. I used to live in the city centre, in Acharnon, near a church. I made a friend who helped me when I was there. But after a month I had to leave Greece, so I left Athens and went to Thessaloniki, and from there I started walking. It was winter time.

There was no snow, but it was freezing cold and it rained heavily. My feet were soaked and cold. My clothes were wet from the constant rain. I was walking for hours when I saw a bridge and a railway line on a rocky area. There were huge rocks around me. My feet were swollen and bleeding. I went under the bridge. All my clothes were soaked wet but I was carrying a sleeping bag in my backpack. I had no other choice but to sleep there as I was exhausted. I took all my clothes off and remained naked in that foreign landscape in the cold and got in my sleeping bag. Only a few minutes passed when I started shivering from the freezing cold. My body could not stop shaking. My eyelids were closing. One thing kept coming to my mind: that if I allowed myself to fall sleep I would die. I said, No. You have to wake up. I got out of my sleeping bag, put my wet, cold clothes back on and said to myself that I had to keep on walking. I walked for three more kilometres. There was no other option or choice. I had to walk. I found a police station and wanted to be caught and sent back. Then I would have ten days to cross the border again. Indeed, they sent me back.

Ten days later I prepared myself again for crossing the Greek borders. With new clothes, new shoes, a new bag. I decided to take the same route. The way I knew. Following the railways. Only this time I was not on my own. I was part of a group of refugees all of us crossing the borders out of Greece together. We were strangers but all there for a common journey. That journey was not easier the second time around. A father and a son were crushed by a train inside a tunnel. I heard their cries that last moment. It was on the border with Macedonia. When you were in a train tunnel, you had to position your body in a certain way to avoid being crushed by the train.

The rest of us carried on. We reached Kosovo and then Serbia. In Macedonia, Albanians robbed us. They took our mobile phones, our clothes, our shoes, watches, wallets. Then we crossed to Serbia. Then we reached Hungary. There it was so bad: Hungarian police were so racist. I had no clothes. I found a pair of girls’ flip-flops in the garbage. They were very small on my feet but had to wear them. The Hungarian police gave us nothing. I was wearing a woman’s leggings. I found clothes and shoes on the street. I had no other choice. We ate what we found from our friends. No locals ever offered us food. We carried no weapons with us. Then we went to the prison in Hungary on the borders of the country. I could not walk any more as I had severe blisters. I stayed in a camp for two weeks waiting for my feet to heal. From there we had to keep walking. We reached France. We found ourselves in the Calais refugee camp. From there we hid inside trucks for days to reach Ireland. I got inside the top of a truck. In some trucks there could be as many as ten people hiding. They caught me a few times hiding in trucks. They start spraying and refugees come out. From Calais I reached finally Dublin after a twenty-hour trip. From there I was put in direct provision. And here I am.