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Hey Belgium. Kultar Singh is getting tired. We can not let that happen. Three years in Belgium, and before that he got death treats in Afghanistan, fled to Dubai, lost job and papers there, came to Europe hoping to find human rights, and what does he get? Same thing as in Afghanistan. Shame, Belgium! Shame, Europe!
I don’t know my exact age, I must be about 29. People in Afghanistan don’t give a date, they just say you were born around the time an earthquake happened for example, but they don’t write anything down. I come from Kabul, but I was born in Ghazni.
I am a Sikh. In Afghanistan, there is a big problem. In my religion, when people die, we don’t bury them in the ground. Yes, we burn them. In Afghanistan they don’t let us do that. There is no respect for our religion.
In 1998, Afghanistan got very dangerous for my family. My brother got killed. I went to Dubai because in Afghanistan my life was in danger. I worked there for 12 years, until the shop went bankrupt. But as the shop in Dubai closed, my father told me they were still looking for me in Afghanistan. They still want to kill me. I don’t even know exactly who they are.
I could not stay in Dubai, and I could not go back to Afghanistan. So I came to Europe. By air. It has been three years now, and I still don’t have papers.*
Now, my mind is also in danger: I am confused about my life. Thinking is difficult in this situation. Where will I live, will they send me away? I don’t know. Sometimes, my memory gets all empty.
My lawyer had told me I would get the Dubai nationality, but Dubai only gives tourist or work visa. Dubai is not a country where people go and receive the nationality. It is not in their law. When people stay in Dubai without papers, they get deported and sent back to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India… So I was in danger in Dubai. Belgium said: “You did not come here directly”. Yes, I came to Belgium after 12 years in Dubai. Now, the problem is: they say I’m a national of Dubai. But I’m not. Three years ago, I came from Dubai, but I’m an Afghan.
People come here for different reasons. I came here because people said Europe was good, that they help you. So here I am, and look: it is the same as in Afghanistan – over there I have no religious freedom, and here in Belgium I have no personal freedom. They could deport me any time.
I can not even speak with my family in Afghanistan. My parents are aging and have no mobile phone or anything. I don’t know where they are now.
I didn’t get much education or diplomas, but I learned things, like how to speak English, simply by working. In Afghanistan, people are not at all educated. I can not go back. I don’t have anything to do there.
With documents, the first thing I want to do is study. It’s been 3 years since I wanted to go to school to learn Dutch and French, but my first target is documents. Then get a job, and get married.
I’m not asking for money, all I need is documents. Afghan Sikhs and Hindus don’t come here to receive money – we’re businessmen. I am not a beggar. I’m a businessman but they treat me like a beggar.
Belgium is a good country, but without papers it is like a jail.** I can’t go anywhere. I can only think inside Belgium. I live between walls. Like somebody locked me up. And if they send me back, my life is finished.
I was very strong and sure of myself when I came here, but now I am being pushed down. We have been protesting for five months. I’m getting tired. But yes, I continue. I try. I walk the walk, I go to the protests. What can I say? La loi c’est la loi?***
*papers/documents = a work permit, an ID card, a passport
**according to the Dublin Regulation, asylum seekers who have given their finger prints in one European country are not allowed to ask for asylum in another EU country, and in case of a negative decision, are not allowed to leave the country
***the law is the law = phrase that mostly covers the acts and decisions of Belgium’s Secretary of State responsible for Migration and Asylum
Interview compiled by Marlene N.
See also this site on Afghan Sikhs and Hindus