From the Field is Border Criminologies’ ‘mini-post’ series featuring news from researchers currently in the field. This installment is by Liza Schuster, Reader in Sociology, City University London. Liza is currently in Afghanistan, exploring how fears and perceptions about the presidential elections and the withdrawal of international forces in 2014 is affecting emigration. This post describes her engagement with a family recently deported from Norway. In a previous post Liza described a few days in her voyage over to Afghanistan earlier this year, meeting with Afghani women and men in transit.
We crossed the courtyard and followed 16 year old Amin around the back of the house. We removed our shoes, walked down the dark hallway and turned into the small dark room. The two youngest children sat huddled with their mother under a duvet. 8 year old Nasir’s sobs did not miss a beat, while his 11 year old sister Fatima cried silent tears beside him. Their mother’s eyes were also swollen with crying, as she stood to welcome me and urged me to be seated. “Hello, Nasir, how are you?” I said in Dari. “I want to be in school” he gulped. “I should not be here. I should be in school with my friends. I must go back. I must go back now.” “He has been crying like this this since we landed seven days ago” his mother said in anguish. “This morning, he tried to take one of the bags to put his clothes in it. He said he was going to walk to the airport.” His father could not speak but knelt with his head bowed. I could see his tears glitter as they fell. He finds it hard to stay in the room unable to bear or to relieve the suffering of his wife and children.
“Nasir jan” I said “You cannot go back now. But you can stay in touch with your friends in Norway. We will find you a good school here and you will make friends here too.” “No, no. The best friends are in Norway. I need them. I must go back. I cannot go to school here. Yesterday I saw six boys beat another boy. My home is in Norway. My friends are in Norway. I should not be here,” the words tumbled out in rapid and perfect English learnt during his 4 years in school. He hid his face in his hands and began a keening that did not stop for the 30 minutes I stayed. I tried to reassure him, to tell him that there were good schools and good people here in Kabul, but he told me his head was hurting and wouldn’t work. Fatima turned to say something to me in Norwegian and I felt my heart constrict as I looked into swollen reddened eyes. She sat in her jeans, hooded sweatshirt, with her woolen hat and short hair, a typical little European. Her mother tells me she refuses to wear a scarf or a long skirt. I asked her to repeat what she said in English. “We cannot stay here, Mrs Liza. We must go back to school. We must go back. We must go back.” I sensed that she was on the edge of hysteria.
The family are guests of the relatives of an acquaintance they had not seen for five years, and now they need to move on, but they are paralysed by the fear that drove them from Afghanistan in the first place and by the shock of their deportation. The children cannot process was has happened to them. They refuse to eat, and the stress is manifest in their pale skin, in Amin’s swollen throat glands, in Fatima’s hoarse little voice as she speaks and her hands that pluck incessantly at the duvet, in Nasir’s inconsolable distress.
Their parents are at a loss, unable to comfort their children, unsure what to do next. For the moment they are unable to plan: their thoughts are still in Norway, though they sit in this small room in Kabul, afraid to venture out. In spite of the cruelty of this deportation, the family want only to return to Norway. They cannot quite accept that the country they have come to love has betrayed them.
See also other mini-posts from the series From the Field:
- From the Field: Sarah Turnbull’s Current Research at Yarl’s Wood
- From the Field: How to Build a Network (of Sanctuary)
- From the Field: ‘Going to Prison’ and Accompanied Assumptions
- From the Field: Ticking-boxes at HMP Huntercombe
- From the Field: Marion Vannier’s Day in Prison
- From the Field: Ines Hasselberg’s Research among Foreign-National Prisoners
- From the Field: Sarah Turnbull’s Current Research in Immigration Detention
- From the Field: Bethan Loftus’ Research Trip to Canada