The children living in limbo: 'I feel 100 years old instead of 16' - The Guardian
He climbed the snow-capped mountains between Afghanistan and Iran, reluctantly boarded one of the fallible boats from Turkey to Greece, made his way across mainland Europe to Sweden, and he did the whole thing on his own at the age of 15. But the most significant journey Habibullah takes is the one that starts at 7am every morning. This is when he leaves his refugee camp in Linkoping, Sweden, and makes his way to school.
Every day he takes four buses – two there and two back – but it’s his chance to make a success of leaving his home in Afghanistan. He hopes it will make that traumatic trip across the world worthwhile. “I go to show my talent and I want to improve. I’m not good at maths or chemistry but I’m interested in English and Swedish.”
Habibullah will soon turn 17, which means he’s a little older than his 15- to 16-year-old classmates in the ninth grade, but he’s very proud of the fact that he can keep pace with them in many subjects, particularly in English.
However, it’s been making friends with the local children at school that’s proved a major challenge. “The Swedish children are friendly but unfortunately they don’t speak a lot [to me],” he says.
“But they are very kind …” he adds quickly, keen to clarify he’s not complaining. Finishing any story about how difficult he finds something on a positive note is a conversational tic of Habibullah’s.
“I was in such a bad situation over the last year but now I’m fine. I just need my brain to accept all of the things that happened to me,” he says. “I feel 100-years-old instead of 16. Everyone has the same question: ‘Can I help?’ But no-one can help me be happy.”
Sweden’s asylum policy is different to that of many other countries, and he is not only able to go to school but he has also been assigned a godmother, who is teaching Habibullah the Swedish way of doing things. The thing he’s most perplexed by is the Swedish habit of always being absolutely punctual. “If you are even one minute late, people are so cross,” he sighs. - Read More