I chatted online last night with my Afghan friend Samira, who is still in Pakistan with her husband and three small children. In December she had found a research scholarship the University of Turin in Italy. All she had to do was get there.
Acquiring a visa required passports stamped to prove legal entry into Pakistan. And she did not have those, because when the family left Afghanistan and entered Pakistan, its passports were taken, then returned, with no stamps. Also, at the border, the family's luggage was stolen, with all of Samira's documents buried beneath the clothing. This is often the case with migrants entering a new country.
No exceptions were allowed for Samira and her family to leave Pakistan without the passport documentation. So she recently returned to the border and got the passports stamped. That is a story for another time. I was pretty much speechless when she told me about it.
On February 2 Samira will take her passports to the Italian embassy in Islamabad, and she told me the visas should be issued within a day or so. The family will then be able to fly to Italy to begin a new life.
I have two friends, Janet and Jack, who have offered to pay the travel expenses for Samira and her family. I have been in touch with Simona, Samira's Italian contact, who is a university professor. She is working with a travel agent to get prices for a flight to Milan and a train to Turin. I will wire the funds; Janet and Jack will reimburse me.
Simona tells me that Samira's first paycheck will not be issued for two months, so funds will be needed to support the family until that time. Her paycheck will be 2,000 euros a month. So I will be doing some fundraising in the next week to give her 4,000 euros (about $4500) for rent and living expenses until her paychecks begin.
We hear so often about the tragedies experienced by refugees who have to leave their homeland because their lives are in danger. I met many of them when I volunteered at the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. Samira is the sister of Nadim, one of those Oinofyta refugees. When Samira and her family arrive in Italy next week, I will be relieved and grateful to have helped.
I tell this story often: