The Mayor

“I grew up in Dashtak, a small village in Afghanistan. I lived there with my parents and my two little brothers. I went to school, to the mosque and I had good friends. It was always pleasant and I did not have any stress. My father was the mayor of the village and he often said that I should go into politics. At the time, I did not have any idea myself what I wanted to do later.”


“My father had a large plot of land. He allowed foreign military personnel to use his land. The Taliban did not apporve. One day, I was at the mosque and someone said: 'You must leave this place as soon as possible!' The Taliban had military forces and they killed my parents. They were also looking for me. I went to my uncle and my aunt in town. My uncle made all the arrangements so that I could escape to the Netherlands.”

Frozen meals

“I have no idea as to which countries I travelled through. I was sixteen and I did not know what what hit me. It was quite a journey and I was happy to arrive in Ter Apel. The COA staff were friendly to me and they tried to make me feel comfortable. But initially, I found it difficult. I was a free boy in Afghanistan. In Ter Apel I had to fill in forms for everything and I had to stand in line for things. I got frozen meals which I had never seen before!”

A foster mother

“I was lucky to quickly move to a small housing unit of Nidos. I lived there with three other boys. During that time, I went to the international transition class. A Turkish woman was our mentor and she helped us with life here. She is a foster mother for me and I am still in touch with her. When I was eighteen, I was no longer entitled to shelter. Two days before I had to leave, my lawyer rang: 'We are appealing and you are allowed to go to an asylum seekers’ centre.'”


“In the asylum seekers’ centre, I share a unit with seven other men. I have my own room. We share a kitchen, a shower and a toilet. I have had several housemates over the years. There were enough problems with people who did not clean up, who made noise all night, or who used alcohol and drugs. It was difficult. I was attending senior secondary vocational education – mbo – and I wanted to go to bed in time at night. One time I was awake until six in the morning and I had to do an exam early in the morning.”


“I actually wanted to do military training and work in the field of defence. It was not possible as I did not have a residence permit. It was for that reason that I made a choice for the senior secondary vocational education to train as a security officer. I was not immediately allowed to attend the school. I really had to persist. One of the teachers noticed that I had motivation. He sent a letter to the police saying: 'This boy is really trying hard!' After that I got a grey card which enables me to do traineeships at security companies.”

The right track

“I regularly speak to my case manager MaryAnn. I have not had a resident permit for years but she kept saying: 'You are doing well here, you are positively engaged in your studies!' She confirmed that I was on the right track. It is pleasant to be able to interact with someone and to get an explanation as to how things work in the Netherlands.

The program assistant Martijn helped me to arrange all sorts of practical matters for my studies. I had to apply for the payment of my school fees and travelling expenses. I also needed study books and a security uniform for my traineeship.”


“I was able to go to language lessons in the azc, but I did not need them. At school, I had the subject Dutch but I mainly learned the language by speaking to people. In Amsterdam there are 180 nationalities, so I have many different friends here. During conversations I wrote words down that I did not know and later, I looked up the meaning. My friends often laughed at me doing that.”

Two pieces of paper

“A friend of mine asked me this year to come to France, to apply for asylum there. Without a residence permit, I had no future here. I had been studying for years but I was not allowed to work here. I said:  'Just wait a little, I am getting my diploma on the 13 of September.' The amazing thing was that on that particluar day I got my diploma and my residence permit. WIthin two minutes I had two pieces of paper!

I am now working being self-employed and I take on work via Securitas. I usually work for companies in Amsterdam or at Schiphol. I recently aslo worked in Leiden at a large festival.”

Little brothers

“I am quite okay here. I do miss my two little brothers though. Just before my flight, we went to my uncle and aunt with the three of us. They stayed in Afghanistan. I have been looking for them with the help of the Red Cross, but I still do not know where they are. When I was sixteen, I did not have a telephone yet. Without telephone numbers it is difficult to try and find my family.”


“I am waiting for my own place to live in Amsterdam. I might continue my studies, but first I am going to work hard, so that I can furnish my room properly. It is still my dream to work for the field of defence. I would like to contribute to the safety in other countries. Being military personnel, I might go abroad at some point to help people. Or maybe I will work in Afghanistan as a security officer. You just never know!”