After spending more than 24 hours (one night and one day) in the border we were finally able to cross the Afghanistan border and enter Pakistan. We were very happy that we were able to escape from the Taliban.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning, I called my friend, Ahmad Seayer Ahadzada, who helped us get the Pakistan’s visa, and he was living in Islamabad- Pakistan. He invited us to his house. Then we moved towards Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. We were very tired and hungry. On the way to Islamabad I was thinking how we will manage the next steps with the portuguese embassy in Islamabad and whether we will really get the Portugal visa or not.
After more than 5 hours, we reached to my friend’s house (Ahmad Seayer Ahadzada) whom were also our colleague in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was 2:00 pm, I wanted to call the portuguese embassy in Islamabad earlier and inform them that we were able to cross the border, but I noticed that I had received an email from them and they set us an appointment for the next day for an interview at the embassy.
The next day at 9 am we went to the portuguese embassy in Islamabad for an interview, and they told us that we should have to wait for some days to receive the visa. Since it was not clear when we would receive the visa, we booked a room in a guest house which was near the embassy and where we would stay until receiving our visa.
In the evening of the same day, I received another email from the embassy saying that we can get our visa from the embassy tomorrow. We were very happy and impatiently waiting to get our visa soon, but it was very interesting to me that we can get our visa from the embassy of Portugal in Islamabad in less than 48 hours.
It’s important to mention that all this cooperation and the process of obtaining the visa would have been impossible for us without Mr. Bruno’s help. We are very grateful to Mr. Bruno Maçães’s cooperation in all stages.
The next day we went to the embassy of Portugal in Islamabad and got our visas, it was a very happy and unforgettable moment, we felt very happy that we could go to Portugal. I was always expecting to ensure a better future for my whole family, to live peacefully and raise our children in a peaceful country, to educate them and also we can continue our higher educations as well. So, after getting the visa, I was feeling that my expectations come true now.
We decided to book the flight tickets earlier, but we would have to wait more than 3 weeks to book the flight in economic class. Since Roya was in the 8th month of pregnancy and the possibility of the baby’s birth was getting near day by day, we didn’t have time to wait more than 3 weeks, so, to fly at the nearest dates, we only found tickets in business class.
I decided that we had to book the flight with business class, so we could fly at the nearest opportunity and we booked our flight with business class on November 9, 2021.
After spending 2 weeks in Pakistan, on the 9th of November 2021 when we were supposed to fly at 4 o’clock in the morning, we left Islamabad for the airport on that night and we faced with many problems at the airport.
The employees of the Pakistan airport created too much problems for us. They were very well aware of the situation in Afghanistan, but even so, when the border polices of the airport saw our passports, they repeatedly checked our passports and asked how we got the Pakistan visa.
From 9:00 PM to 3:30 AM, they kept us for various excuses, asked questions and asked for different documents which were not necessary for that flight.
After hours of questions and answers and our efforts to travel, only 15 minutes left for our flight and at the last moments one of the senior employees of the airport said that “we can go.”
Finally, at 4:30 am on November 9, we flew from Islamabad- Pakistan to Dubai and from Dubai to Portugal-Lisbon, and after spending more than 11 hours, we arrived at Lisbon airport at 2:00 pm on 9 November 2021.
Reaching Lisbon, which was like a dream to us, which we did not believe before, was the result of all the hard work and cooperation of Mr. Bruno Maçães, Mr. Seayer Ahadzada, the Embassy of Portugal in Islamabad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. Thanks to them were able to reach Lisbon and to start a new life.
We arrived in Lisbon but our next step was not clear for us: where will we go and what should we do? The weather was relatively warm, at the beginning we were welcomed by one of the officials related to immigration departments at the airport, and after going through the process of work and documents we left airport, and then we were welcomed at the airport by Mr. Bruno Maçães as well.
He was very pleased to see us and we were also pleased to meet him. After an hour, we were brought from the airport to the migrant center (CPR) by the staff of related immigration center. There were a large number of immigrant’s families from Arab countries and two afghan families lived in that center. We were among the first to become refugees in Portugal from Afghanistan. Every day I saw how everyone was looking for an excuse to be happy. Portugal, with its beautiful nature and good people, became our second home.
My first impression about the country was like we had never searched about Portugal when we were in Afghanistan. Yet we searched and we found that Portugal is a European country but when we arrived here, we saw that Portugal is a beautiful country with a huge culture, great weather and really kind, nice and cheerful people.
After spending more time I can point few things, but if I have to choose one – the most important for me – definitely it will be openness of portuguese people and their willingness to help. This is one of the first things I realized and experienced.
Even though I cannot speak portuguese, it isn’t a problem. Most of the people speak really good English, which is very interesting and make us feel even more lucky that we are here in this country.
Anyway, we spent 4 months in the refuge center and have fond memories of all the immigrants who were there, although immigration is not an easy situation and I can say it is very difficult.
But with the birth of our son Ahmad Zaeim Seerat on January 9, 2022, he made us happy and once again he brought smiles and happiness into our faces and life. That smile and happiness that had been forgotten from our faces and life due to the state of our country, migration and distance from our beloved family and country.
I will write more how our lives going in Portugal in next episode.
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* Samim Seerat is an Afghan refugee in Lisbon, where he arrived in November 2021 with his wife and daughter. He became a father again on 7 January. In Kabul he worked as a media executive in the MOBY group which owns Tolo News. He is also the founder of a start-up called Paiwast Health Services. He writes in Mensagem about his experience in Portugal every month.