“I constantly felt like a guest with no hope,” says Aso, a Kurdish returnee

Aso, a 29-year-old from Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, migrated irregularly through seven countries to reach Germany where he stayed for over two and a half years. But the reality of living there did not match his expectations. 

His irregular migration journey started in October 2015 when he set off for Turkey with a group of other Kurdish migrants. “I thought if I got to one of the EU countries, my life would change and I would have everything I want,” Aso said in an interview with The Migrant Project.

“Once we got to Turkey, the smuggler promised me and almost 21 other migrants a very big and perfect boat,” he explained. But the reality was different: “After more than 15 hours of a very tiring journey from Istanbul to Antalya shores in a minibus, we realised that the boat was very small and unsuitable.”

“The smuggler deceived us. He managed to fill the boat with almost 80 other migrants,” Aso added. 

The journey to Greece was difficult. “We had a very dangerous crossing on sea — the boat was about to capsize twice — but we reached Greek shores anyway,” he said.

Aso managed to leave Greece shortly after arriving. They continued traveling through North Macedonia, then to Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria, before finally reaching Germany. He described the route as very “tiring, freezing and terrible.” It took almost 22 days in total.

“Once I got to Germany, I thought difficulties would vanish and I could have a very great life there,” he told us. But, unfortunately, he was wrong: “My life in detention centres was very difficult.”

He talked about his experience in one particular centre, a former basketball court, where men, women and children all lived in the same space. He said it was “like a military base.”

“It was very crowded. I fought and quarrelled with several people there because you are always angry and upset.” He added: “We got very little money from the government — only enough for food and drink.”

After an eight-month wait, Aso was able to apply for asylum. Five months later, his application was denied. He waited another seven months and tried again, but three months later, he got a second refusal. He was told: “you are from Kurdistan. It’s safe and secure, so we can’t give you asylum.” 

“My life got terrible, I was so disappointed,” Aso said. “ I stayed in Germany for two years and five months. I could not work legally. I constantly felt like a guest with no hope.”

He also tried to apply for asylum in France and Italy, but was not successful. Eventually, he decided to return to Kurdistan. He made use of IOM’s voluntary return programme and arrived home on 12 February 2018. 

TMP – 16/01/2020

Photo credit: hydebrink / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Hamburg, Germany – September 8, 2015: Refugees in the Hamburg reception center at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015