Sharif 17 years old: “I never expected they would call me a liar”

Testimony/ Introduction

19/10/2015 : Sharif , a young Afghan, 17, arrived to Belgium through the Balkans in March 2015. He tried to introduce an asylum request. The Foreigners Office declared him as ‘Dublin’ because he had travelled through Bulgaria. Besides, following a bone test, the Office declared him adult despite the documents certifying his age and the probability of error of those tests recognised by scientists. He was arrested on September 14th 2015 and detained in the 127bis closed centre where, out of despair, he tried to commit suicide.
He was deported with violence to Bulgaria on September 27th 2015. After being arrested and beaten on his arrival to Bulgaria, he spent one week on the streets and came back to Belgium. All this being 17 years old! He is still extremely traumatised and frightened.

Here is his testimony in Pashto with simultaneous translation to French.

audio here

Q = Questions
C = Interpreter

Q :For how long has he been here?
C :For 6 months.

Q :What happened? He went to the 127 bis closed centre, they arrested him…
C : When I introduced the asylum request, I said I was minor. I gave the documents certifying I was minor. They did not accept it and had me undergo a medical test. They said I was older than what was written on my Afghan ID card. After 6 months, they gave me several times a date for my interview, I thought I would have these dates for an interview at my convocation here at CGRA. But it wasn’t the case, after 6 months they brought me to the closed centre, they wanted to send me back to Bulgaria.

Q :How was it in the closed centre? Was he feeling bad, depressed?
C :  It was extremely difficult, at the closed centre they don’t really pay attention to people. People are badly treated. I feel sad because I did not lie about my age, but they did not take care of me as a minor but rather as an adult. It was extremely hard for me.

Q: It was hard. He cut himself, he self-injured himself, right?

C : – He says: it was too harsh for me at the closed centre. I was extremely bored. I didn’t know what to do. I was in prison although I hadn’t done anything wrong. I only had introduced my first request in Bulgaria. Over there they do not respect refugees. Life is tough there. That’s why I left Bulgaria, to come here, to request asylum here in Belgium. At the centre, I cut my hand because I ignored why I was punished. At the centre, they don’t care about what I did.

-The social assistant of the centre told me, after I had cut my hand, that I could cut it even more, it wouldn’t change anything to the fact thaty they would send me back to Bulgaria.
– After that he was placed in isolation cell where it was totally dark. It was really hard.

Q :Then he was driven to the airport to be deported to Bulgaria?
C ; -He says: I didn’t even know I would be deported the day after. I was in the activity room. They came to ask me to go to the reception room. When I was in that room they took me to the isolation cell and left me there, all alone. He told me that I would be going to Bulgaria the day after. I stayed in the cell the whole night until the morning after when four of them came to pick me up. They tied my feet and my hands.
– The day after they came to pick me up at 4 a.m. I didn’t eat anything and I didn’t sleep the whole night. They drove me to the airport. In the car they untied my feet and my hands. But when we reached the airport I insisited on me not going. I refused to leave, hence they tied me even stronger, the hands, the feet and also the mouth. The four of them carried me to enter the plane.

Q :So, then he got to Bulgaria, and what happened there?

C :- He says: Then they left me with the Bulgarian police at the airport where they kept me in a cell for one night. The day after they came and gave me a paper saying that I did not have the right to stay in Bulgaria. The paper was saying: your case here is closed, you do not deserve anything here, you must leave Bulgaria as soon as possible.
– Then he said there was a second option: if you really want to stay here in Bulgaria, you may rent an appartment and come back to us with all the contracts etc. so that you may reintroduce an asylum request and wait to see whether it is accepted or not. I didn’t have any money there, it was really tough.

Q : In Bulgaria, they didn’t see you as a minor either, did they?
C :He says: when I arrived to Bulgaria, I didn’t have my ID card with me anymore. I told them my age but my interpreter translated wrongrly: he changed the Afghan year into the European calendar year so there too I was considered as an adult.

Q :What did he do after that in Bulgaria, considering both proposals, did he consider leaving or renting an appartment?

C :He says that, regarding the second proposal, he didn’t have money left to find an appartment. He spent one week outside on the street. From there he took the road once more. He came back here. Because as he already said it, he has an uncle here, a member of his family.

Q :Does-he have something else to add?

C :He says: yes, my health is very bad now, I can not think properly anymore. The things I listen to etc, I forget them the day after. I am really not peaceful. I really can not accept to be rejected as a minor whereas I gave them the documents, the real ID card etc. I feel so sad that they did not accept them. He is extremely moved by that.

Q: He is extremely traumatised…

C :He says: in Bulgaria I don’t have anyone. Here I have a family, I have an uncle who is like a father to me. I thought I could go to school, learn the language to progress in my life. But I did not expect they would call me a liar. My dream was to live here at my uncle’s, and to continue my studies. I am very sad that it doesn’t work.

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