Life as a refugee

Looking for a Safe Haven

The Taliban takeover of the government in Afghanistan has affected the lives of many people. Some of those still experience the consequences of the abrupt takeover, including those seeking asylum in Türkiye.

The Beginning of a Long Journey

Twenty-five-year-old Afra*, a young mother of two children, was silent when she was asked about her life in Afghanistan and the reasons for leaving her country. The painful memories and the fear of the future made her drift into her own thoughts.

Afra wanted to marry the person she loved, Isaad, but her family opposed the marriage, especially her older brother, who was a member of an armed group. Afra insisted and married the person she loved. At that point, her life started falling apart since her brother constantly threatened her. It was no longer safe for her and her husband to stay in Afghanistan.  They made the difficult decision of leaving, heading first to Iran.

Afra’s husband found a decent job there, but she was not able to feel safe. Afra and her husband had to leave Iran and go to Türkiye with their newborn daughter, Mahnaz. Their journey was exhausting, yet there was more trouble to come.

Finding New Ways

Afra and her family entered Türkiye and eventually reached Istanbul, where they applied for International Protection, a temporary status granted to asylum seekers deemed to meet the Turkish Government’s criteria. The accommodation conditions were rough as they faced challenges in getting furniture. They were struggling to provide the baby with basic needs. Her husband was trying to make a living by working daily jobs whenever he could find any, and she had to stay with the baby at home with no support network. Following their struggle with the economic conditions in İstanbul, Afra’s family applied for asylum at the migration authorities in Yozgat, yet she was still unsettled and afraid of the possibility of her brother somehow finding her in Türkiye. As a result, she and her husband decided to try and cross to Europe through Greece with their two children Mahnaz and Esmat. They traveled with 150 people on a tiny boat but could not reach their destination. Afra contacted the Turkish coast guards to seek help near Muğla. A moment of feeling safe did not last long, as their international protection application in Türkiye was withdrawn following this attempt.

While they were applying again for the asylum status, they decided to sell their properties in their home country, so they could rent a place in Yozgat to show authorities their intention to reside regularly in Türkiye. Afra was able to receive her money through a middleman, but she got mugged on her way back. Not knowing what else to do, she approached a police station, and she was detained with her two-year-old child due to her irregular status. They were immediately sent to Selimpaşa Removal Center.

“All I wanted was a safe place for me and my family,” she said. “Why am I here?”

Reaching Out for Help

Isaad reached out to Refugee Rights Turkey (RRT) asking for legal counselling and assistance for his wife and son.  In coordination with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), RRT was able to reach Afra and her son through their legal support services funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid while she was still under administrative detention.

When the RRT staff lawyer visited Afra at the detention facility, he provided her with legal counselling regarding asylum procedures and her rights under detention in Türkiye after checking the deportation order in her file. Later, the RRT lawyer supported Afra with a petition submitted to the detention authorities explaining that she and her family would face persecution by her brother and his armed group if she and her family were sent back to Afghanistan. The mother and her two-year-old were released following the intervention. Following their release, RRT staff provided Afra’s family with detailed information regarding the procedures to follow to obtain a legal status.                                     

Afra is following RRT’s instructions to be a legal resident of Türkiye. Meanwhile, she works at cleaning jobs to afford her children’s basic needs. She has dreams of getting a regular job and sending her children to preschool once she obtains identification documents. Those dreams are her reason to bear all the hardships she faced and move forward. For now though, she is safe.

*Person of concern’s name has been changed to protect her identity

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