Närbild på Ashraf i folkvimlet.

Ashraf Frugh has now been employed in the project Disabled Refugees Welcome – The Right to Work and Mutual Integration

Ashraf Frugh has now been employed in the project Disabled Refugees Welcome – The Right to Work and Mutual Integration.

During the autumn, we have been understaffed and have been looking for a colleague for a position as a fieldworker and advisor. This position was a perfect fit for Ashraf, given their university education and experience working at the International Red Cross in Kabul. His knowledge of Dari/Farsi, Urdu, English, and Swedish is also important.

Later in 2024, we plan to open up more opportunities for internships in the project. Keep an eye on the project’s website.

>Here is an interview with Ashraf from last year.

Here is an article with a speech he gave at the MR-dagarna in Helsingborg.

Below is a text that Ashraf wrote shortly after he started as an intern in the project during 2023. Read it! – it describes the journey from the relief of being rescued from Afghanistan’s Taliban rule to the possibilities of Sweden, but then on to the hell of unemployment, but which has now taken another turn as the journey has led him to a job in our project.

A Journey to Find Nothing

The plane was getting closer and closer to the ground. I leaned my head to the window and looked down. All I could see were small patches of dry land surrounded by water and large forests. I kept asking myself:

– So when do we get to the city or the dry section of this country? It is all water and forest.

Finally, the plane landed in the middle of one of the landmasses that was bigger than the others. I knew that I had come to a country that has more water and trees than anything else. Two things that we were deprived of in our country.

It was January and the cold and burning wind was burning my face. Now I knew why people always talked about the cold weather in Sweden and they were afraid of that cold weather.

The agent from municipality was waiting for us outside the airport to take us to the house they had already prepared for us. We introduced ourselves to each other. Her name was Jamila and she was from Afghanistan and she was speaking Persian (our mother tongue) fluently.

Jamila greeted us and then put my wheelchair and our belongings and luggage in the trunk of a car she had already rented and then we got into the car and headed towards the city.

As usual, I was sitting in the front seat next to the driver.

All those things that we had seen in the movies and series were passing in front of our eyes.

Tall buildings, inter-city trains, wide roads, air bridges and fresh air.

On the way, Jamila told that they rented a house for us in Huddinge municipality and Flemensberg region.

After a journey of one hour we reached to our destination.

Our new home in Sweden.

A one-room apartment for me and a two-room apartment for my sister and her husband.

Everything seemed good and dreamlike.

For me, being a disabled almost all my life, life could not be better and more beautiful than this. 24-hour electricity, fast internet, a good and fast wheelchair, accessible roads and places where you could travel with a wheelchair, a good and wonderful transportation system that was never late for a minute and…

I was happy.

Learning Swedish was not too difficult especially for me that I already had a good knowledge of English. Even before we started learning the language officially, I started learning the language from a language learning app called Duo lingo and at least I could say (How are you) and (I am fine).

In the second month of our arrival in Sweden, we were registered in the Swedish Employment Agency.

Under the program in the Employment Agency we were supposed to undergo a series of professional trainings (learning Swedish language was one of those trainings) and prepare ourselves to enter the job market in Sweden. In exchange for each day of training, we were paid a certain amount of salary.

Everything seemed wonderful in the first two months.

Then slowly the nightmare started.

I got the first warning letter from the Employment Agency.

In the warning paper they wrote that they had sent me that warning paper because I was not looking for a job.

I did not pay much attention to that warning paper. Man, I was still tired of all tragic days I had passed in Afghanistan and I haven’t learned two words of Swedish properly, how can I work?

But a month later, the second warning letter came and this time their tone was more severe. They said that since this is my second warning, they will cut off one day of my salary and in subsequent warnings, they will cut more days of my salary.

It was a serious matter and I had to do something for myself.

But where could I find a job?

My knowledge of the Swedish language was still limited to a simple greeting.

I had worked in an office for fifteen years in my native land as an accountant, office worker and translator, but all that experience was specific to the same place and the same country, and here I had to start all over again.

Due to my disability, it was not possible for me to do other things except working with the computer and office work.

The threats and pressures from the Employment Agency increased more and more every day.

I started looking for a job.

From then on, my job was to go to different sites and look for jobs announcements that fit my abilities and skills.

Every month, I sent my CV to more than ten or fifteen offices and companies that had announced their job opportunities, but I never, ever received an answer.

Sometimes they would call me from the Employment Agency saying that there is an employment exhibition and such and such companies share their job opportunities. You should participate to that exhibition.

I went to those seminars and exhibitions with full enthusiasm, but the result was always the same.

None of those offices and companies had any job opportunities for people with disabilities.

For my sister and her husband, at least there was opportunity to work as cooks or nurse’s aides or waiter or elderly homes.

The nightmare continued.

Sweden was no longer a country where I was happy to come and I was not enjoying my life at all.

When I went to the municipality office to fill out the financial aid form, the social worker asked me what my plans were for my future and becoming independent and when I would find a job for myself.

My answer was always the same:

– I love to find a job for myself and become independent, but where is this job? Please hire me in your office as a secretary, receptionist or any other title.

And she smiled and did not say anything.

I was slowly losing count of the CVs that I had sent to find a job. A hundred, two hundred, five hundred?

The employee of the Employment Agency still called me sometimes and asked if I had found a place for myself for an internship, and then said that she was also looking for a place for me to start working as an intern.

But that place was never found.

Everything was a mess. I was very stressed and depressed.

The big problem (that I faced in Afghanistan as a disabled person as well) was that none of the offices and companies to which I sent CV and my work profile was exactly what they needed, according to an unwritten rule; never called me for a job interview even once.

Maybe it was because of my name, which showed that I came from another country, and maybe because I wrote in one part of my CV that I am a person with disability.

Now, I gradually realized that if this Sweden was a dream country in every other sense, at least it was never a dream country for people with disabilities who had immigrated to this country and were looking for job.

In the very first days of our arrival in Sweden, a Swedish journalist named Thord Erisken, who was writing a book about Afghanistan and the fall of the republic and the evacuation of people from Afghanistan, came to our house and interviewed all three of u. We told him about how we came to Sweden and the days that Kabul fell to the Taliban and our journey from Kabul to Stockholm and then our first days in Sweden.

Tord Eriksen stayed in touch and came to our house a couple more times and took more notes from our life to include in his book.

One day Tord Erikesen sent me the website address of an organization and said that they work for immigrants with disabilities and it would be good for me to visit their website and contact them.

I hurriedly went and checked the site. The name of the organization was (Disabled Refugees Welcome – right to work and social integration).

Without any delay, I went to the contact us section of the site and wrote to them that my name is Ashraf, I am disabled and I come from Afghanistan, and I would like to contact them and join their project and see them closely. I also wrote them my phone number and email address.

I wasn’t sure if anyone would answer me, but the same day I got a call from an unknown number and a woman on the other end of the line said that her name was Rahel and she was an employee of the Institute (Disabled Refugees Welcome).

She had a kind and friendly voice. She spoke briefly about their activities and then said that if I like, I can come to their office to talk closely. Then she wrote me the address and telephone number of their office.

The next day, I went to the office (Disabled Refugees Welcome) in Fashta and saw Rahel up close.

You can’t imagine how happy I was when I saw that Rahal was also a person with disability. Well actually I was not happy because Rahel had a disability, I was just happy and I knew that that woman understood my language and pain. She was an immigrant herself, she was disabled, and I was sure that she had already gone through the same channels and pains that I had to go through to find a job and integrate into Swedish society.

Rahel put a form in front of her and started asking questions. Questions about life, immigration, disability, problems I’ve faced, problems I’ve had and everything in short.

Of course that interview and meeting with Rahel could not solve the problems I was dealing with, but I felt a little relieved after visiting Rahel. My stress level decreased a little.

At least there were people like Rahel and his colleagues who I could ask for advice and help me in times of difficulty.

One of the important activities of the organization (Disabled Refugees Welcome) was to hold job workshops where Rahel and her colleagues gave information about the rules, opportunities and challenges to the participants, who were all disabled and newly arrived in Sweden like me. Sometimes they invited people from governmental offices who answered the questions of the participants and we could share our problems with them.

I had spent fifteen years of my life in Afghanistan doing exactly what Rahel and her colleagues were doing.

An office that was run by people with disabilities and then they worked and served for other people with disabilities.

In the organization (Disabled Refugees Welcome), in addition to Rahel, several of her colleagues, including the head of the project Mrs. Jamie, were also disabled, and for that reason, being among them gave a sense of peace.

In addition to holding job workshops, Rahel and her colleagues helped the disabled immigrants who were registered in the Employment Agency with solving the problems they had with the immigration office, the social office, transportation and housing.

After that I was a regular participant of employment workshops held in the (disabled refugees are welcome) office.

I always asked myself:

– What if one day I work in that same office?

After almost a year, Rahel told me that if I want, I can start working in their office and project as an intern and volunteer.

It’s been a month since I started working as a volunteer with the (Disabled Refugees Welcome) and I’m learning how to work the Swedish way and gain experience, but that’s not the end of the story.

Something is seriously wrong with this system and it is very annoying. How can a disabled person who has just arrived in another country without any experience and without knowing the language or any kind of skills be expected to go and find a job for himself and if he doesn’t find a job, he will be fined and his/her financial aid cut off?

For example, if Tord Eriksen had not talked about the existence of an office called (Disabled Refugees Welcome), maybe I would have been struggling with the same stress, depression and pressure until now, and I would never have known that there were such organizations for help and support.

I am sure that right now, as I am writing these lines, hundreds of other disabled immigrants are facing the same problem and they have to bear the huge amount of pressure that they have to find work for themselves and if they don’t, they will not receive any kind of help.

But is there really any sort of working opportunity for people with disabilities?

If so, where is it and how?

This is a long, long way. Countless people must join hands and work together to find a solution to this problem.

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