Toryalai: A Migrant’s Story
12 Dec 2017, Kabul – The day Toryalai Jaffary, an Afghan father of two, handed US$ 14,000 to a money changer in the market, for a people smuggler to take him to Europe, his life changed forever.
Toryalai was living a happy life with his wife and two daughters in Afghanistan, until one day, he attended a fateful gathering at a wedding in a hotel. It was there that some enthusiastic young friends decided to go Germany and encouraged Toryalai to join them.
“I sold my land and left my wife and my children in my father in-law’s house. I left everything for a hope of having a better life,” he says.
Economic growth has been slow in Afghanistan over the last few years and unemployment has risen. Facing poor prospects, many talented and educated Afghans choose to migrate.
But migration is also a business. Trafficking and smuggling networks actively exploit poor and desperate Afghan families. They capitalize on the lack of legal migration avenues and may demand fees of up to $50,000 a person.
- Toryalai was living a happy life with his wife and two daughters in Afghanistan, until one day, he attended a fateful gathering at a wedding in a hotel. It was there that some enthusiastic young friends decided to go Germany and encouraged Toryalai to join them.
- Migrants to the West often travel at high risk, using dangerous modes of transit, and with the threat of exploitation or deportation on arrival.
- He is now deported. He has lost everything - his land, his house and his US$ 14,000. He is alone and has no one to rely on.
- UNDP's SALAM project will work with businesses to create sustainable job opportunities for young people who want to stay in Afghanistan.
Toryalai’s first stop on his journey was Nimroz province, and from there a long journey to the Pakistan/Iran border, and then to Turkey. Migrants to the West often travel at high risk, using dangerous modes of transit, and with the threat of exploitation or deportation on arrival.
“Traffickers don't care about anyone’s life,” says Toryalai. “Once, when we were driving through a jungle, 18 of us were in a single SUV. One of us was sick, we thought he was dying, and we called out to the driver to stop. He simply turned up the music and put his foot on the gas.”
“We were kept in places like stables,” says Toryalai. “Iranian human traffickers put us in a stable for six days. We also got stuck for two days with no proper clothes—thirsty and hungry on the border with Turkey.” Other problems beset them on their journey: they had to be rescued at sea, after their boat got stuck. Then they were thrown in jail for six nights. For nearly a week, they walked through Bulgaria towards Germany, sleeping by the side of the roads.
Toryalai finally made it to Germany. He stayed there for almost 12 months, but in appalling conditions, with little or no food. He could not even afford to charge his phone.
In Germany, Toryalai saw people being removed, or leaving voluntarily, after realizing how harsh the conditions were on arrival. Others were not so lucky. “I saw people with my own eyes who committed suicide and left their kids alone in the world, or lost their minds due to stress and depression,” he says.
Today, Toryalai sits cross-legged in a rented single room in the outskirts of Kabul, himself a returnee from Germany. He has lost everything - his land, his house and all his money. He is alone and has no one to rely on.
“My land is gone, my life is gone, my place is gone. I am totally alone now, I have nobody.” he laments.
He bitterly regrets his decision to migrate to Europe. He still hasn’t found a job, but, he says, he is hopeful of finding something. “For example, carrying a cart, joining the military, some other government work, or something else. I’m desperate.”
The Afghan diaspora is currently estimated at over 5 million (registered and unregistered). Afghans now constitute the second largest inflow of migrants and asylum seekers in Europe after Syria. Many have had to leave the country or migrate in search of safety, greater economic opportunities, and livelihoods, sometimes in dangerous or exploitative conditions.
The Support Afghanistan Livelihoods and Mobility (SALAM) project will work with businesses to create sustainable job opportunities for young people who want to stay in Afghanistan, or find safe and legal ways to work abroad and send money home. The project also supports entrepreneurial/vocational training and apprenticeships and work placements.
The hope is, that with better work prospects in Afghanistan, and more structured opportunities to earn money abroad, fewer people will be tempted, as Toryalai was, to abandon their lives to take the risky journey to an uncertain life in Europe. If his story can encourage others to think again, perhaps his journey was not a wasted one after all.
SALAM will be implemented as a joint intervention between UNDP, ILO and UNHCR and in full partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) to reflect the common goals of a variety of actors while recognizing and maintaining their separate mandates and areas of expertise and to seek durable solutions for Afghans in line with the Government’s vision and strategies for employment generation and labour migration.