Interviews: Europe’s Afghan Refugees Speak of COVID19 Experiences
- Bashir Eskandari, 6/1, Barcelona, Spain.
Bashir is 37 years old and lives in Barcelona Spain for the last 11 years. He left Afghanistan in 2006. He works with the Afghans and Catalans cultural association and provides a range of support services to refugees and migrants, including health support, social support, cultural mediation, information.
Today’s conversation takes place amid Ramadan, with menial workers unable to make a living. The International UN Watch asks a few simple questions of Bashir:
- What is the situation in Spain and especially in Catalonia and Barcelona?
- Does the Spanish Government provide Financial assistance?
- Is the COVID 19 situation difficult in Ramadan? How does the community gain information?
- Bashir tells us that the Spanish government does not provide financial assistance to an association that continues to pay rent and service the community. They translated most of the recommendation of WHO into Persian and other languages and even turned them into animation so that they are accessible to refugees and asylum seekers. They also try to do what they can with food shortages. The community is hard hit because most immigrants and asylum seekers are out of work and they often go hungry.
- Fatima Haidari, 6/2, Stockholm, Sweden.
Fatima lives in Sweden since 2005. She works as a teacher and, for the last 2 years, she has been helping refugees in Swedish schools, works with the Mohajer news service for asylum seekers and refugees and volunteers for health support, social support, cultural mediation, and information services. Today’s conversation takes place amid Ramadan, with menial workers unable to make a living, and with different levels of support across Europe. Is Ramadan more difficult for her? How is the situation in Sweden?
- Fatima Haidari: “It was usual like other Ramadan periods, the day is too long and it is impossible to fast during the day. The schools are open, we work, and nobody is in quarantine or stays at home. We translate all the information from English to Persian and publish it on the page.”
- Hemati Arash 6/3, Goteborg, Sweden
Arash is 35 years old and lives in Goteborg since 2018. He left Afghanistan in 2001. He works with European’s civil society organisation (EGCSO) and managers the Mohajer news Facebook page with 130.000 followers. The platform provides a range of support services, including health support, social support, cultural mediation, and general information. Has Ramadan proven to be difficult in Sweden? Does he have any dreams for his future?
- Arash tells us that Mohajer news (Refugee news) provides corona virus information to 130,000 followers, working with different doctors around the world to address the questions of different refugees around the world. The month of Ramadan in Gutenberg is difficult, with a long day that starts at 3 am to 10pm. They continue to give people the right information. If they have health problems they tell people not to fast. They have dealt with a range of 100 Cvid-19 refugee problems. “My dream is to one day go back to Afghanistan and see my country,” he says.
- Nazari Jomaa 6/4 Oslo, Norway
Jomaa is 22 years old and lives in Oslo since 2014. He left Afghanistan in 2013 and works with the Afghan diaspora network in Oslo, as well as the Europeans Global Civil Society Organization (EGCSO). They provide a range of support in Norway, including health support, social support, cultural mediation, and information.
The UN Watch approached Nazari to ask a few simple questions:
- Has the situation been easy for refugees and asylum seekers in Norway?
- How many people have been affected and do they have access to the right information?
- Jomaa says that the situation cannot be compared to Italy and Spain, as apparently only 9000 people have been affected. However, the government has stepped in to provide support for all people. The network gave information to people who cannot speak the language, working with Norwegian radio stations that provide the information in different languages. Ramadan here appears to have been a blessing as keeps the people less active, although welfare support can be harder to access for non-citizens that does create some stress.
- Mirza Hussain Atae 6/5 Vienna, Austria
Hussain is 35 years old and lives in Vienna since 2013. He left Afghanistan in 2005. He works with the “Generation outside Afghanistan Network” that provides a range of support services, including health support, social support, cultural mediation, and information.
The International UN Watch asks Mirza how has the community in Austria been gaining access to information about COVID 19? What has the community been doing during Ramadan to stay safe?
- Hussain tells us that they provide communities with information about the virus using Facebook and WhatsApp. “The health system is good in Austria,” he says, “but it does need to improve.”
- Mirzae Mohammed is 28 years old and lives in Athens, Greece, since 2006. He left Afghanistan in 2003. He works with “The Generation Outside Afghanistan Network” that provides a range of support services, including health support, social support, cultural mediation, and information.
The International UN Watch asks Mohammad how has he been dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic in Greece and whether he has any information about Greek refugee camps? Have the refugees been gaining the right information and what have they been doing during Ramadan?
- Mohammed tells us that refugees and migrants feel as responsible as anyone in addressing the Pandemic. So they do what they can to disseminate social distancing messages through the networks, by blogging and social media platforms and in a number with different NGOs.
- “In Greece we have a lot of problems with the health system,” he says, as people don’t speak the language and there are no interpreters to go to the hospitals. As for Refugee camps, he says that many people there are able to follow the network’s Facebook Page and they try to disseminate information in English, Greek, Farsi, and French. “We don’t target just the afghan communities,” he says.
- During Ramadan the situation is hard. We have informed many people that gatherings are not allowed. Many people that do Ramadan do from their homes. We follow the state law which doesn’t allow any social gatherings, even Christians, so we respect the law.”