Rights & Freedoms

Afghan Exodus: Maruf’s tale of an emerging transnational community between Herat and Europe


The road that Maruf and his friends took to start off their odyssey from the shahrak to Vienna. From Herat, it runs all the way to Kabul and destinations such as Nimruz in-between and symbolizes the coming and going of people and goods in the emerging transnational community between the shahrak and Europe. (Source S Reza Kazemi)

The road that Maruf and his friends took to start off their odyssey from the shahrak to Vienna. From Herat, it runs all the way to Kabul and destinations such as Nimruz in-between and symbolizes the coming and going of people and goods in the emerging transnational community between the shahrak and Europe. (Source S Reza Kazemi)

Between 2014 and mid-2016, thousands of people left Herat – a major urban centre in western Afghanistan – for various European countries. Since August 2014, Said Reza Kazemi (*) has been tracking Maruf and 24 of his friends and acquaintances, who have made the trip. The case of this young Afghan and his network shows the importance of friends’ influence on each other to migrate, in addition to major security and economic considerations. It highlights how the risks they take – both physical and financial – determine their resolve not to return. More importantly, it reveals the formation of a burgeoning and socioeconomically significant transnational community, even at a local level, that not only travels but also lives between Herat and Europe. This dispatch follows previous fieldwork and AAN publications by Said Reza Kazemi from the western Afghan city of Herat – it is the part of the ‘Afghan Exodus’ series of dispatches. The names of people and places in this dispatch have been changed or withheld to protect their confidentiality.

 

On 19 August 2014, Zaker, one of 25-year-old Maruf’s close friends, had returned to Herat (Afghanistan) from the Austrian capital of Vienna. Zaker had left his hometown of Herat in early 2012 to Austria, and was smuggled out of the country.

Maruf told three of his friends, including Mahdi, Rahim and the author, about Zaker’s return and we decided to visit him at home one evening. Maruf was on leave from the Afghan National Police (ANP), and both Mahdi, who worked at a local dressmaking business, and Rahim, who owned a photography shop in downtown Herat, came after work and we all set out for Zaker’s house.

We knocked on the door and were welcomed into the guestroom. Zaker came in and warm greetings followed. Zaker had returned home after over two and a half years. He and his younger brother brought us tea and, since it was a special occasion, cookies. Zaker’s father also came in and this immediately formalised the atmosphere. We took note of Zaker’s father’s complaints about security and work in Afghanistan, in justification as to why two of his two eldest sons had smuggled themselves out of the country to go abroad. (1) His other son and his wife had lived in Iran for many years before they had moved to Italy in 2005.

As soon as Zaker’s father left to say his evening prayers in a nearby mosque, we felt relaxed and started chatting more openly. We talked about a diverse range of topics, from religion to social relations in Austria and girl-boy relations in Western Europe (a topic which provoked much laughter). However, Maruf, Mahdi and Rahim were keen to know the particularities of Zaker’s journey to Vienna from this shahrak (in Dari this means ‘little city’), an informal settlement of around 8,000 Shia Sayyeds and Hazaras, the construction of which began in the early 1990s in the suburbs of the western Afghan city. (AAN readers are familiar with the shahrak from the author’s previous dispatches; see here , here , here and here.) They asked many questions about the journey, from the cost of being smuggled and the various routes taken to the rules and regulations on asylum-seeking, life and work in Europe and so on.

Zaker had not returned empty-handed – far from it. He had obtained refugee status. However, in order to return, he had told the Austrian immigration authorities that he was only travelling to Iran. He had then crossed back illegally into Afghanistan in order to return to the shahrak, bribing Afghan border guards not to stamp his passport with entry and exit stamps so as not to risk his refugee status. He had become fluent in German. He had begun working in the construction sector and was earning money. And he had returned, as the author later found out through female relatives, to get engaged to a girl from the shahrak.

They were so impressed with Zaker’s story that as soon as we left his house, Maruf and Mahdi started talking about it as a great success:

I wish I could return home from abroad one day [like Zaker], so people would come to visit me and I could tell them about my experiences and answer their questions. It would be cool. – Mahdi

You would not see me tomorrow if I had the money to make it there. – Maruf

Their dreams of leaving the shahrak soon materialised and none of the three friends have been seen in the shahrak since October 2015. Rahim left for the Afghan capital of Kabul to find work there in a telecommunications company. (2) His photography shop had gone bankrupt in downtown Herat. Mahdi ended up in the Swiss capital of Bern and Maruf in Vienna, having been smuggled there.

Maruf’s life

By November 2015 when Maruf left for Europe, he was already effectively the main provider for his family. His father had died a natural death several years earlier in Iran before the family was repatriated to Afghanistan in 2003. His two elder sisters had married and gone to live with their husbands and their husbands’ families in the cities of Kabul and Ghazni. His elder brother had married, moved out of the parental home to a different part of Herat city and generally tended to his own family after marriage. Therefore, Maruf was left with his ageing and ailing mother, one younger sister and two younger brothers.

This situation meant that Maruf had to drop out of school to find work in order to support his family. First, he rented and opened a small mobile phone shop in the shahrak – indicating his interest in communications equipment, particularly smartphones, and the connectivity and mobility it can bring to young people like Maruf (read the author’s recent research on how smartphones have contributed to the participation of young Afghans in the Syrian war here). The shop soon closed, though. He then found piecemeal work on construction sites. The plastering injured one of his wrists, preventing him from working for several months.

Finally, he volunteered to join the ANP in 2010. After a couple of years of training, he became a police officer, earning a monthly salary of 15,000 Afghanis (approximately 230 US dollars). In 2013 and 2014, he was dispatched to the frontline to fight the growing insurgency both in Herat’s restive district of Shindand and in neighbouring Farah province (read AAN’s research on insecurity in Shindand here and Farah here). It was in Farah that Maruf almost got killed when the Taleban ambushed his convoy on the way to Farah city, the provincial centre. The Taleban retreated under heavy gunfire and Maruf said he did not know how he survived that day.

More than anyone else, it was Maruf’s friends, both in the military and elsewhere, who made him getting himself smuggled to Europe. In early 2014, Maruf told the author that there were around 200 young people from the shahrak in the Afghan security forces – 20 in the police and 180 in the army – and that he saw more and more fellow police officers dying on the battlefield or their dead bodies returning to their families in the city. Some of his friends deserted their posts and went abroad, which clearly affected Maruf. Moreover, friends such as Zaker had already been smuggled to Austria.

The network

The author has identified 24 of Maruf’s friends and acquaintances who left the shahrak for Europe and Australia before, during or after Maruf’s own departure overseas between 2012 and 2016:

Friends 1, 2, 3 and 4: Zaker, Habib, Ezzat and Mojtaba, all friends of Maruf: They left in 2012-2013, around three years before Maruf. They have established themselves in Austria and made major contributions to the socioeconomic strengthening of their families back in Herat. For instance, their families have been able to buy plots of land, on which they have built two to three-storey houses. They have become examples of successful migrants, in whom their families take pride.

5. Mahdi, one of the friends who visited Zaker in August 2014, left Herat in October 2015: He worked in a local dressmaking shop after he dropped out of school, because, in his words, he “didn’t like studying.” Before he ended up in Bern in Switzerland, he had worked long and hard to raise the money to travel. Having obtained permission from his family, his father and elder brothers also helped raise the necessary money. He spent around 400,000 Afghanis (approximately 6,000 US dollars) on the journey. He left in October 2015 (around one month before Maruf did, as he was able to raise the money sooner). After around nine months in Switzerland, he started to miss his family and the shahrak; however, his family cautioned him against returning, given how much money it cost him to get there.

6. Hamid, a friend of Maruf’s: He left in 2014, a year before Maruf. He had been a university student and had come from a relatively well-off family that financed his departure. He is currently in Sweden.

7. Ali, a friend of Maruf’s: He left in 2014, a year before Maruf. He was around 15 years old when he left. His father is a landowner and businessman who financed his departure.

8 and 9. Rohullah and Hossain, two brothers and friends of Maruf: Rohullah was in the 7th grade and Hossain in the 10th grade at school when they left. They went in 2014, a year before Maruf. Their father sold his house and car to finance his sons’ departure, spending around 800,000 Afghanis (approximately 12,000 US dollars). Rohullah is disappointed and told one of his friends that it was not worth it at all and that Europe was not the place he had imagined before he left. He wants to return but his family don’t want him to, considering the exorbitant amount of money spent on sending him overseas. The two brothers are currently in Germany.

10. Najib, a friend of Maruf’s: He travelled with Maruf. He was a student of computer science at Herat University before he left. He lives with Maruf in Vienna.

11. Mohsen, a friend of Maruf’s: He also travelled with Maruf, but they went their separate ways in Tehran, the Iranian capital. He was a university student before he left. His family is well-to-do as his father is a major landowner. He joined Maruf in 2015 in Vienna and lives with him.

12. Jawad, a friend of Maruf’s: He was a police officer like Maruf and they travelled to Europe together. He was the only son of a relatively rich family that financed his smuggling trip. He lives with Maruf in Vienna.

13. Jalil, also a friend of Maruf: He went in December 2015, a month after Maruf. He was in the 12th grade at school when he left.

14. Jamal, another friend of Maruf’s: He left at around the same time as Maruf. He was a student of chemistry at Herat University before he left. His father is a local shopkeeper who spent almost all his savings to finance his son’s trip to Europe.

15. Abed, a friend of Maruf’s: He was around 14 years old and in the 7th grade at school when he left in 2014. He comes from a middle-class family.

16. Enayat, an acquaintance of Maruf’s: He was a student of medicine at a private university in Herat when he left in 2014.

17. Ramazan, an acquaintance of Maruf’s: Ramazan’s brother Hamid had migrated to Finland in late 2010 and encouraged him to follow suit. He arrived in Finland in 2014, but the Finnish immigration authorities deported him to Germany where his fingerprints had been taken on his journey. (According to an EU law called the Dublin Regulation, the EU member country in which a migrant first sets foot – or where he or she was first registered is responsible for processing their asylum application.) He was a skilled construction worker in the shahrak and later on in Iran. He was making around 50,000 Afghanis per month (approximately 770 US dollars) when he left for Europe.

18. Khalil, an aacquaintance of Maruf’s: He left his wife and his only child in the shahrak and went to Germany through a smuggling network in 2015. Having become tremendously disappointed, he voluntarily returned home to his family in the shahrak in July 2016. He keeps telling the local people that Europe was not the place he had imagined before he left.

19 and 20. Elaha and Mahrokh, sisters of Maruf’s friend Rahim who visited Zaker in August 2014: Elaha’s husband was relatively well-off and went with his wife and three-year-old son to Austria through a smuggling network in 2013. Elaha’s younger sister, Mahrokh’s fiancé, was a police officer like Maruf. He was killed in action in Herat. Mahrokh became overwhelmingly depressed after her fiancé’s death. Her family agreed to send her along with Elaha and her husband and their child abroad. Elaha was a nurse at a local clinic and Mahrokh was a student of fine arts at Herat University when they left.

21 and 22. Aqela and her friend Shaziya, acquaintances of Maruf and his mother: Aqela’s husband was a drug addict and she divorced him. Afterwards, she joined the ANP. Aqela’s friend Shaziya is a widow. They travelled together to Austria via the smuggling network in 2013. Like men, women such as Aqela and Shaziya take the usual long and risky smuggling routes. However, female asylum-seekers, particularly those travelling alone or without their close male relatives, are poorly regarded back home, more so than their male asylum-seeking counterparts.

23 and 24. Maisam and Hadi, friends of Maruf: They went to Australia through the smuggling network in 2011. They have established themselves in Australia and financially support their families back in Herat.

Maruf made his decision to go in that context: dozens of his friends and acquaintances had apparently successfully established themselves in Europe and Australia. He was in frequent contact with several of them via the Internet, particularly on Facebook. His friends shared their pictures from Europe and Australia that vividly contrasted the life Maruf was living in the underdeveloped shahrak where many inhabitants are daily-wage labourers. (3) On a broader level, the atmosphere of “raftan, raftan” (“going, going”), as people say here in Herat, had had an impact on Maruf.

Obtaining the green light

In practical terms, the opportunity for Maruf to migrate arose in October 2015. The degree of Maruf’s commitment to provide for his mother and younger siblings began to change around that time. His younger sister got engaged to a relative who had obtained asylum in the US due to his work for the US military in southern Afghanistan. This paved the way for a new source of financial support for the family. His two younger brothers also grew up and were in the 9th and 11th grades at school in 2015. However, Maruf needed to act responsibly and prudently if he wanted to gain his mother’s permission.

Crucially, Maruf saved his earnings and borrowed from friends and relatives to ultimately raise 250,000 Afghanis (approximately USD 3,850) – barely enough to finance a basic journey, compared to the more comfortable and more expensive smuggling trips the rich can afford that include hiring more experienced and better-tempered smugglers, taking shorter routes, using better and more spacious transportation such as faster cars and stronger boats. Only once the money was raised did he finally inform his mother about his intention to go. He justified his departure as seeking the opportunity to continue his education and build a better life. He mentioned nothing to his mother (who suffers from hypertension) about the risks the journey might involve. His mother agreed, albeit reluctantly, as she told the author:

What could I do but to say yes and give him my blessing? He wanted to go. If I had prevented him from going and if something had happened to him in his police work, I would have blamed myself my whole life. So, I gave him my consent. He left.

The odyssey

Maruf and three of his friends – Najib, Mohsen and Jawad – left the shahrak for Europe one midnight in November 2015. It is around that time that buses leave Herat for Kabul and the destinations in-between. Before leaving home, Maruf’s tearful mother held up the Quran and Maruf passed under it, invoking God’s protection for the uncertain journey ahead. He and his companions began an odyssey, a chequered and risky journey from Herat to Vienna through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Maruf and his friends left Herat for Zaranj, the centre of Afghanistan’s southwestern-most province of Nimruz, by bus. They spent the night there, arranging to be smuggled across the Afghan-Pakistani border. The Baloch smugglers they found put them and around 35 other people on a fast vehicle – a Toyota Pickup truck – and took them through Pakistan to the Pakistani-Iranian border. Maruf and his companions then walked hungry and thirsty for many hours to cross the border on foot. On the Iranian side, the next group of smugglers loaded Maruf, his companions and 11 other people into a small vehicle – a Peugeot Pars. There was another Peugeot Pars car carrying 15 other people who were also being smuggled to Iran. In Maruf’s words:

The smugglers used very bad language. They beat us if we didn’t listen to them. We were in their hands (4)… On our way to Zahedan [centre of Sistan and Balochistan province in southeast Iran], the Iranian police opened fire on the vehicles, stopping the other vehicle but not ours… It was extremely hot and they had thrown the four of us [Maruf and his three friends] in the trunk of the Pride car [indicating the similarity in shape and size of the Kia Pride car, which is widely used in Herat, with the Peugeot Pars car that is commonly used in Iran]. The smugglers then closed the boot by force since it could not close due to its excessive overload. Our legs and all our bodies became numb. Worse, we were suffocating and almost dying.

Maruf and his companions arrived in Tehran six days later. They spent two days in the Iranian capital, staying with one of their friends who had been given a room on a construction site where he was working. Maruf seized the opportunity to visit his father’s grave on the outskirts of Tehran city, praying for him and seeking his blessing for the rest of his voyage. One of Maruf’s three companions, Mohsen, went his separate way in Tehran in order to visit his relatives there. Maruf, Najib and Jawad, with the help of their friends and other contacts such as relatives in Tehran, continued to search for Kurdish smugglers to take them across the Iranian border into Turkey. Just across the Turkish border, Turkish police fired into the air to make them stop, but Maruf, his two friends and most of the other fellow travellers kept going. They and the other travellers crossed the border on foot. The smugglers then took Maruf and his friends to Izmir, a city on Turkey’s Aegean Sea coast. It took them a week to get from Tehran to the Aegean coast.

Maruf and his companions continued their journey by boat:

We began moving around midnight when the sea was calm. There were 65 of us from various countries on a rubber boat that was 3 metres wide and 9 metres long. The boat was close to capsizing because of the overload. Thank God, it didn’t. It was dangerous. We were praying to God for our safety from the deepest parts of our hearts in the middle of a vast and strange sea.

Maruf and his friends then managed to get themselves from the island were they docked to the Greek capital of Athens. They found Athens to be like Afghanistan, for many Afghans had gathered and were living in downtown Victoria Square. (5) The rest of the journey from Athens to Vienna went safely, smoothly and quickly – as they were at the height of last year’s migration flows, when several countries briefly opened their borders (AAN reporting on the Balkan route is forthcoming). Maruf said they generally followed other asylum-seekers from Afghanistan and elsewhere, walked on foot, jumped on trains and buses, hitchhiked and finally ended up in Vienna:

The other European countries on the way [Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia] weren’t very interesting. We decided to end our journey in Austria. Firstly, we were exhausted. Secondly, many people were continuing their journey on to Germany and further to Scandinavia. We thought it was better to stay in Austria where fewer asylum-seekers might stay. Initially, we planned to go and join Mahdi in Switzerland, but we ended up here in Vienna.

Throughout Maruf’s journey from Herat to Vienna, his mother included her son in all her daily prayers. She was giving alms for Maruf’s protection and inviting neighbours and other women she knew in the shahrak to serve them food, so they might also pray for her son. However, she was tremendously anxious deep down and only felt calm once Maruf finally called her from Vienna to let her know that he was safe and sound, and would stay in the Austrian capital.

Between Herat and Europe: Shahrak’s nascent transnational community

The fact that Afghans, like many other people, have been a transnational people is not new. (6) However, transnational migration from this recently-build and tiny shahrak to places as far away as Vienna in Austria or Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a new phenomenon. (7) As transnational migrants, Maruf and his friends and acquaintances such as Najib, Jawad and Zaker in Vienna, Mahdi in Bern and Hamid in Helsinki are contributing to the emergence of a slowly deepening transnational community originating in the shahrak. This community not only travels but also lives between Herat and Europe. As the three cases of Maruf, Zaker and Hamid show, they keep regular and almost daily contact with their families back in the shahrak; they are sending money and gifts; and they are making investments in the form of buying plots of land and constructing houses in the shahrak. These are indications of a new transnational network emerging between tiny Herat’s shahrak and Europe.

Given the context and the way he and his two friends Najib and Jawad migrated to Europe, they intend to stay and get established in Vienna at any cost. Maruf is trying hard to learn German, which he finds “an extremely tough language.” He lives in a two-storey building in downtown Vienna. The first floor is occupied by around ten Arabs and the second by Afghans, including Maruf, his two companions, as well as seven others. The ten Afghans have become friends and take turns doing household chores, from cooking to cleaning.

At the same time, they are struggling to cope with a different European environment, administratively, socially, culturally and weather-wise. Maruf is furious with the Afghan government, particularly President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who has said that he had “no sympathy” for Afghan migrants, such as Maruf. He also thinks the Afghan government has told European states to return “Afghan migrants.” He blames the Afghan president for failing to understand the situation of Afghan asylum-seekers as “he himself sits on a well-secured and well-paid position.” (8) Maruf and his friends keep in regular touch with their families back in the shahrak. However, Maruf does not tell his ailing mother about his real situation or his struggle to be accepted in Austria. Back home in the shahrak, Maruf’s mother and younger siblings get on with their normal life. His younger sister’s husband, who is currently in the US state of Texas, has been supporting the family financially. The two younger brothers keep attending the local school. Maruf has yet to send money home. Certainly, Maruf needs time (at least a couple of years) to become familiar with his new environment, to settle in Vienna and to find work, before he can start supporting his Herat-based family.

Maruf still hopes to be as successful as Zaker, who left Afghanistan in 2012 and settled in Vienna. Zaker is now planning to come back to the shahrak for a second time. He will be back with even more to show for himself. He supported his father in completing the construction of his house in the shahrak and also will be holding his wedding ceremony soon. Zaker will then return to Vienna, probably with his wife. Nevertheless, Maruf is planning a little surprise for his family; Zaker will bring a gift from Maruf on his next visit to Afghanistan – a laptop for his two younger brothers, so they can do better at school.

Helsinki-based Hamid, the brother of Maruf’s acquaintance Ramazan, is even better established after around six years in the Finnish capital. He works in a supermarket in downtown Helsinki. He has married a Finnish woman and they have two children. He returned to visit his family in the shahrak in 2013. He came back alone, leaving his wife and children in Helsinki. He bought a laptop, too, and taught his shahrak-based family to use the Internet, particularly Skype, so they could stay in regular communication. He has helped his father and brothers in buying land, on which they have so far built a two-storey building. They plan to build the third floor in the near future. He regularly sends money back home to his family in the shahrak.

The tale of Maruf and his friends and acquaintances could be replicated to other parts of Afghanistan. It is friends who influence young Afghans to leave their country, as much as it is serious security or economic considerations. Although Maruf justified his departure overseas as seeking the opportunity to continue his education and build a better life, he was close to getting killed as a police officer fighting the insurgency. He was increasingly worried about what would happen to him and his family if the armed opposition happened to capture parts of Herat province, including the shahrak, even briefly, particularly after the temporary fall of Kunduz to the Taleban in 2015. Yet, Maruf’s case clearly shows that the recent migration of Afghans, at least from 2014 to early 2016, is network oriented (it involves people from all walks of life, including men and women, boys and girls, school and university students and graduates, the skilled and the unskilled, the rich and the poor) and to some extent depends on peer-to-peer relations and pressures rising from them. (9)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, young Afghan migrants have been contributing to the formation of a transnational network that is providing important socioeconomic support for communities back home. (10) This support has played a major role in driving construction and socioeconomic development in the shahrak and potentially elsewhere in Afghanistan. In the particular shahrak on which this research is based, this support is vital to people’s socioeconomic well-being, because since around 2013, the land and housing market has stagnated, construction work has largely come to a halt and employment for both the educated and uneducated has declined considerably (read the author’s research in early 2014 here). This aspect of transnational networks and their usefulness should not be sidelined or overshadowed by discourses of migration-induced threats or the often empty statements of tackling ‘local causes’ of migration such as poverty rather they should be recognised by all those concerned on all levels from the local to the global.

* Said Reza Kazemi is an associated member of the University of Heidelberg’s Cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” (http://www.asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de/) and a former AAN researcher. His research focuses on culture, society and politics in local and transnational contexts.

 

(1) Security and economic causes have historically interplayed in Afghan migration. See Alessandro Monsutti, War and Migration: Social Networks and Economic Strategies of the Hazaras of Afghanistan, New York and London: Routledge, 2005; and Kristian Berg Harpviken, Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

(2) After the public service sector, the telecommunications sector is the second largest source of employment and has reportedly created 200,000 jobs in the country.

(3) There are also the kalanha (elders with influence), Community Development Council (CDC) members, so-called white-beards, mullahs, businesspeople and landowners. In a way, they comprise the aristocracy or elite of the shahrak with a far better socioeconomic status. For more on elite behaviour at the village level, see Adam Pain and Georgina Sturge, “Taking village context into account in Afghanistan,” Kabul: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), 2015.

(4) See here for the migration story of another young Afghan – a former employee of Tolo TV – who was smuggled to Germany. This migrant has similar descriptions about the behaviour of the smugglers. For another fascinating Afghan migrant tale, see Jere Van Dyk, “On the Black Way: Traveling the World’s Largest Underground Railroad for Afghan Refugees,” Foreign Affairs, 20 May 2013.

(5) Having become destitute, some young Afghan men are reportedly ‘selling their bodies’ to gay men in Athens.

(6) For example, Sikhs, most likely including Sikhs from Afghanistan, have been transnational migrants for over 100 years. See Katy Gardner and Ralph Grillo, “Transnational households and ritual: an overview,” Global Networks 2 (3): 179-190, 2002, 18. On Afghans, see Robert D. Crews, Afghan Modern: The History of a Global Nation, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015; and Paulien Muller, Scattered Families: Transnational Family Life of Afghan Refugees in the Netherlands in the Light of Human Rights-Based Protection of the Family, Antwerp and Cambridge: Intersentia, 2010. Download Muller’s PhD thesis, on which the book is based, from the Netherlands’ Utrecht University Repository here.

(7) For more on transnational migration as a concept, see Nina Glick Schiller, Linda Basch and Cristina Blanc-Szanton (eds), Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration: Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Nationalism Reconsidered, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1992; and Steven Vertovec, Transnationalism, London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

(8) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recently urged the international community to pay more attention to Afghan asylum-seekers.

(9) As of mid-2016, fewer people (both as individuals and families) are leaving Herat for Europe through smuggling networks. In the shahrak, fewer people are talking about the migration of friends, neighbours or acquaintances. In downtown Herat, this is seen in the decreasing activity of shops that mushroomed all over the city, selling household items of families who left or planned to leave. Such shops also sprung up in the capital Kabul.

(10) See also Elca Stigter and Alessandro Monsutti, “Transnational Networks: Recognising a Regional Reality,” Kabul: AREU, 2005.

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