"I come from Kashmir, Pakistan. In 2001-2002, the dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir resulted in explosions and bombing. Bombs were exploding next to us on a daily basis. In 2002 the situation escalated and I left Kashmir for a neighboring village in order to save my life.
After this crisis, the economy of Kashmir could not recover at once; it would take time, which I could not spend. I come from a family of 11, which means that we had many needs. As the youngest of nine brothers and sisters – who were already married – it was up to me to support my parents. In 2006 my parents arranged my marriage to my wife. In July 2007 I left for Europe.
I left with a backpack filled in with a few clothes, a bottle of water and some food, my only belongings for my new life in Europe. The journey started in July 2007, crossing Pakistan by truck and bus. Of the 40-50 people of my group, the majority were from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In Iran, we had to cross the mountains so that we wouldn’t be tracked down by the police. We hid during the day and walked all night, in the bitter cold of the mountains. I remember wearing a thick jacket, two jumpers, two pairs of trousers and two pair of socks. We huddled together to get warm, you could die of cold.
The trip was really difficult and we did not have enough food. Smugglers didn’t give us food on a daily basis, and if I didn’t have my own I wouldn’t have survived, I was hungry all the time. It took us 15 days to walk from Pakistan to Iran. We crossed Iran mainly on foot. It was very painful and discouraging. When we reached Turkey, the smugglers drove us by cars, five persons per car each time, in order not to raise any suspicions. All 40 or 50 of us stayed together in a house and then we got on a truck which took us to Greece 15 days later.
My first year in Greece was really difficult, I had no friends or family. I craved to return to my wife, who I had abandoned a few months after we got married. I wanted to return, to make a new start, but I couldn’t afford to leave Greece. I spent many years working in greenhouses in Crete and took various jobs in Athens. I applied for asylum in 2012 but it was rejected in 2016 and now I go back to my country.
I am glad that I am finally returning to Pakistan. With the assistance of the International Organization for Migration I will buy a cow and some goats and I will rebuild my farm. This time, I am going to Pakistan for good, to live with my wife, to grow our family and look after my parents."
Story by IOM office in Greece.
Photo Credit: IOM Greece