A third of all the world’s refugees are from Afghanistan. The Russian Occupation, Warlordism, Taliban rule and the War on Terror have left an estimated five million people displaced beyond the country’s borders. Three decades of conflict have left a shrinking humanitarian space and as poverty and insecurity in the region worsen, a new generation is looking further afield in search of a better life.
Growing numbers of vulnerable Afghan youths continue to make the difficult and dangerous overland journey to Europe. Last year saw a 64% increase in unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan arriving in the European Union who applied for asylum, the average age being just 14- 15 years old. Traveling alone they are exposed to abuse and exploitation by criminals or by the very smuggling networks in which their lives are placed.
Ten years on from 9/11, the surge in the numbers of children entering Europe should be cause to reflect on the plight of Afghanistan’s youth in the shadow of war.
As the recipient of the 2010 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award for her work documenting the often-overlooked humanitarian consequences of war, photographer and author Alixandra Fazzina’s reportage portrays the individual stories of Afghan children on the move. Following the flowers of Afghanistan on their clandestine routes from Asia to Europe, the work intimately explores the motives, paths and consequences of this new exodus.
At a bus station on the edge of Kabul notorious for kidnapping and robberies, hundreds of young Afghans congregate by night in the mosafer khanas that surround the Company district terminal. Waiting to depart on buses headed to Afghanistan’s southern borderlands, they make their first stop on the long and sometimes deadly passage to Europe with smugglers.
“All my family have been killed and because of this I’ve been forced to travel and find my way. One day soon I would like to stop and have a safe and calm life without any adventures. By seventeen I’d definitely like to be growing up somewhere in Europe”