Testimony: “I had no choice but to run“

Sayed*, a 16-year-old boy from Herat (Afghanistan), is travelling from Iran with his uncles and cousin. His journey came to an abrupt end when he reached the border between Macedonia (FYROM) and Serbia on November 19, the day when Balkan countries started to accept only certain nationalities to cross their borders.

“Like everybody else we arrived by train and walked to the border. It was night. At the border, there were police men who asked for our papers and where we come from. My family crossed first, they had no problem. When it was my turn, I showed my papers that I had received in Macedonia. Mistakenly, it was stated in them that I was Iranian; probably they wrote that because I have been living in Iran after fleeing with my mother from Afghanistan. My aunt told the police men that I belong to her and that we are family, but they didn’t listen. They refused to let me cross the border.

I have lived in Iran with my mother since three or four years. We are from a village close to Herat in Afghanistan, but we could not stay there. Armed men forced my uncle to come with them to fight, and a cousin of mine was killed. When we were in Iran my father disappeared, I don’t know where he is. And my niece was killed there in her house, when she was praying. She was shot. Those were the main reasons for me to leave. But also the poverty. There are no jobs. We have been travelling since thirteen days.

After I was rejected at the border I had to stay behind. It was in the middle of the night and very dark. I was desperate, but I could not do anything but stay there at the border. Somebody told me it might be opened again tomorrow, so I slept right there in the fields. It was very cold. When I woke up the next morning the border was still closed so I went back to a camp that is on the Macedonian side. There I met somebody who told me that it will probably stay closed for a long time.

So I decided not to wait any longer but to try to cross the border on my own. I wanted to run past the border police through the fields, next to the railway tracks. I knew it was dangerous, I was playing with my life. But I had no choice. I thought to myself: I will either make it or I will die.But luckily I managed to cross the border and went with all the other people to a village, from where the busses leave. When I reached the registration center (note: in Presevo, approx. 10 km from the border) I was so scared that I felt sick. First I didn’t dare to show my papers to the police at the entrance, but finally I had to present it to them. They said: ‚Oh, you’re from Iran’. And then they sent me away.

I have to stay outside the registration centre, while my family is still inside. I hope that that the mistake in my papers will be corrected and that I will be able to continue my journey. I don’t know yet where we will go. Maybe to Germany, we have some friends there. But I don’t really care where I’ll live; I just want to be in a place where I can live in safety. I want to be a doctor sometime. But first my problems have to end.

Editor’s note: After several days of waiting, the mistake in Sayed’s macedonian registration papers was corrected. As Afghan citizen, he was allowed to be registered in Serbia and could rejoin his family. This was only possible because he took the risk to cross the border illegally.

*Name changed to protect identity