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Afghans push by snowy Alps towards new lives in Europe

Afghans push by snowy Alps towards new lives in Europe

CLAVIERE, Italy (AP) — When suicide attackers and gunmen massacred crowds flocking to Kabul’s airport, in addition they severed the escape route that Ali Rezaie hoped would take him to a brand new life overseas, removed from the Taliban and their suspicions of well-educated, middle-class individuals who labored with foreigners in Afghanistan.

Within the chaos, Rezaie couldn’t attain the airport the place flight after flight took off with out him. The 27-year-old was left with no alternative however to take his future into his personal leathery palms. Like many different Afghans, he resolved to seek out one other manner out and launched into a forbidding journey of hundreds of kilometers to Europe, massive components of it on foot.

Greater than three months later, Rezaie’s odyssey by 5 international locations has carried him excessive into the French-Italian Alps, the place he’s pushing by knee-deep snow to evade border guards, with a journalist from The Related Press in tow.

The Afghan exodus that some feared would flood Europe with migrants after the Taliban swept to energy hasn’t materialized. And amid the toothy Alpine crags bristling with icicles, it rapidly turns into obvious why: Solely the hardiest, most pushed and most resourceful exiles make it this far.

Forward of Rezaie within the snowscape is the French border, unmarked however guarded across the clock by police who peer by thermal binoculars for warmth signatures. Rezaie’s companion, one other Afghan bearing scars from a suicide bombing that prompted him to flee, had already tried — and failed — to achieve France by way of this wintry route.

So the Afghans advance fastidiously. They pause to pay attention for sounds within the frozen silence, to seek the advice of a map on Rezaie’s cellphone earlier than the coolness kills its battery and to munch on jam-filled croissants they purchased within the frontier village of Claviere in Italy. If caught by French guards patrolling the border on foot, ski-bikes and in vans, Italy is the place they’ll be compelled to return.

The Taliban takeover and the swift collapse of Afghanistan’s economic system has despatched individuals streaming illegally into neighboring Iran, which is usually the primary stepping stone for Afghans — together with Rezaie — who push on into the European Union.

Afghans at the moment are heading in the right direction to overhaul Syrians as Europe’s main asylum-seekers in 2021. Inner EU reporting on migration developments reveals that greater than 80,000 Afghans utilized for asylum by November. That’s a surge of 96% over the identical span final yr, and the rise was partly pushed by the evacuations from Kabul airport.

Rezaie, from Herat in western Afghanistan, says he traveled to Kabul looking for a flight however then doubled again after the suicide bomb and gun assault within the waning days of the airlift. He believes he would have been killed had he stayed in Afghanistan due to work he did with overseas support teams.

So he emptied out his financial savings, borrowed cash and left behind his printing firm, mates and cozy life.

The hunt took him first to Iran and Turkey, then onward by boat and for 25 days on foot into Greece. Subsequent got here Italy after which the French border.

Rezaie figures that crossing it will likely be straightforward, in comparison with all he’s been by. But it surely’s simpler nonetheless for the European vacationers he out of the blue encounters on a ski run that crosses his mountain path. They zoom previous, paying him no heed, not having to fret about police patrols.

Feeling conspicuous on the manicured slope, Rezaie is struck by how sharply their carefree pleasure contrasts together with his pressing have to get again within the camouflage of bushes.
“Some individuals go down comfortable,” he says, lungs heaving within the skinny air. “Different individuals go up unhappy.”
By discovering paths deep into Europe, Rezaie and different migrants provide hope to these certain to observe. Their information concerning the obstacles, their contacts and their journey suggestions will trickle again to Afghanistan. Migrants trying the Alpine crossing share cellphone maps with GPS markers pointing the way in which.

Rezaie is aiming for the fortified French city of Briancon. Sayed and Mortaza, cousins and each 16, handed by Briancon hours earlier. They, too, fled within the days after Kabul fell and traveled by Iran to Turkey. From there, they had been smuggled aboard a cramped boat to Italy, a brutal six-day voyage that left them too weak to face.

Caught on the French border, they had been allowed to proceed as a result of they’re minors. Seven grownup Afghans they crossed with had been despatched again.

The Taliban takeover scattered Sayed’s household. His father and older brother labored as cops. They’ve fled, and Sayed thinks they’re hiding in Pakistan. With out their salaries, Sayed and his mom had no earnings, so that they left, too. She is staying with a sister in Iran. He’s aiming for Germany.

“Possibly Dortmund, as a result of I like Dortmund soccer membership,” he stated. “We simply need to escape.”

Others who left lengthy earlier than the Taliban takeover say they now not hope to return.
“It’s completed for us now, for everybody who’s in Europe,” stated Abdul Almazai, 26, who left Afghanistan as a youngster. Turned away on the French border with eight different Afghans, he deliberate to strive once more.

“We’ve got crossed so many mountains,” he stated. “I’ve to make my future.”

Assist staff fear that Afghans extra accustomed to mountains and winter’s perils are taking riskier routes by the snow than migrants from hotter climes.

“They’re assured, and generally being assured isn’t useful,” stated Luca Guglielmetto, a volunteer employee at a refuge on the Italian aspect that equips migrants with heat garments and boots for the crossing.

With darkness falling, the battery on Rezaie’s cellphone dies. He and his companion forge on by the snow.

Uncommon are those that handle to cross on their first try. Rezaie pulled off that feat and glowed with pleasure the subsequent morning as he tucked into breakfast at a refuge for migrants in Briancon.

He despatched a video of himself wading by snow to his mom and brother in Iran.
He has his sights set on Germany. However he hopes in the future to go dwelling.

“I had a automobile. I had a job, work.” he stated. “I had a superb life.”

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