Interview. In Salvini’s Italy, two Afghan refugees are finding their warm welcome suddenly upended, as the police wanted to send them back to Norway, where they were refused asylum. For this reason, they decided to flee from italian authorities and avoid to go back to Norway.

Sultan and Halima, refugees forced once more to flee

The tickets were ready. One way for two people, destination Norway. On July 5, Sultan, 35, and his wife Halima, 23, were summoned to the police headquarters in Belluno, and the police notified their forthcoming deportation to Scandinavia. Their dream to live freely in Italy was suddenly shattered and the nightmare of a refugee life began again.

It may be by chance, but the notification of their imminent expulsion arrived on the same day that the Minister of the Interior, Salvini, sent the circular asking to restrict the parameters for the recognition of international protections. “Since then I have been unable to sleep and Halima has been constantly crying,” says Sultan. That is when the two young Afghans decided to start fleeing again. This time from Italy.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban killed Sultan’s first wife and threatened to kill him, too. Thus, after marrying Halima, Sultan decided to escape. First they went to Russia, then to Norway where the couple were refused asylum. This decision led them to come to Italy where, in Santo Stefano, northwest Italy, Sultan and Halima found a job and finally peace. “Going back to Norway would mean being expelled to Russia and from there to Afghanistan.” We spoke with them while fleeing to a third unknown country.

How did you live in Santo Stefano?

Very well. For us it was like a second family, also thanks to the mayor who was kind and helpful. We had no problems and we started to work: I was employed in a supermarket with a regular contract and my wife was working at Cooperativa Cadore, which housed us. I was also attending an Italian school and we thought we had finally found a safe place in which to rebuild our lives.

Everything was fine until July 5.

Exactly. We went to the police headquarters accompanied by the people in charge of the Cooperativa Cadore and they informed us that the expulsion measure against my wife and me was ready. One-way ticket to Norway for July 19.

What was your reaction?

I have not slept, and since then my wife has had moments of deep despondency. We absolutely do not want to return to Norway. It was an experience that we will never forget. We stayed in the country for about 18 months, bounced from center to center. At the beginning we were locked up in a center that was a former prison completely isolated from the community. The nearest village was 11 kilometers. The worst aspect was the relationship with the authorities. We have never met the authorities responsible for assessing our situation since we applied for asylum. All the talks took place in a hasty way by phone or Skype, so they never really listened to us. We could not get out of the centers in which we were locked and we suffered greatly.

Once you were denied asylum, you arrived in Italy.

Yes, we went through Denmark, Germany and Austria and then finally arrived in Udine. Then Belluno and finally Santo Stefano, at the beginning of 2017. Initially when we arrived in Norway in 2015 through some traffickers the idea was to go to England, also because I speak English, but then after being trapped we decided to come to Italy. My father, before leaving Afghanistan, told me that your country would be a good landing place, both economically and socially.

The last possibility to block extradition was negative. Your lawyer had issued an injunction letter to the police station at Belluno.

Yes, but the Quaestor replied negatively.

So did you decide to escape from Italy?

We cannot and do not want to go back at all. We escaped from a desperate situation and here we finally found serenity. Going back to Norway would almost certainly mean going back to Afghanistan, and there they are still looking for us. My wife and I cannot go there because our lives would be in danger. Now I feel completely lost. I don’t know where we’re going and what’s waiting for us. Above all, I feel betrayed by these politics. Norway has improperly denied us political asylum. We were now waiting for the appeal in order to be able to make a further application for asylum in Italy, which was initially refused to us because of the rules of the Dublin Treaty. In the meantime, we have never expected such an unexpected and tragic change for ourselves. After all we have experienced it seems impossible to me and I cannot find a reason for this entire situation. Therefore, we cannot wait for the police to come and take us to the cooperative for expulsion.

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