Every Step of the Way

Behind every migrant there is a unique story that shows the genuine reasons for the migrants’ journeys, and the privation they endure in the pursuit of their dreams. 

Take 17-year-old Tarek.* An Afghan, he was used to turbulence and insecurity, but one day his home was set on fire and his family fled in different directions. He’s not seen his parents since that fateful day a year ago. 

Tarek walked pretty much all the way across Iran, Turkey, Greece, and North Macedonia. Most nights he slept under bridges or under the stars, hungry, scared, cold, exhausted. 

One day, not far from the Serbian border, he decided to try and jump on a moving train. It did not end well: Tarek slipped, and his leg was badly mangled in the fall. He lost a lot of blood and his life was in the balance. 

“I'm just lucky that one of the friends I was travelling with stayed with me and managed to call an ambulance. If he had not helped me, surely the consequences for my life would have been even more devastating,” he says. 

The ambulance brought Tarek to the capital Skopje, where surgeons managed to save his life, but his right leg had to be amputated just below the knee.                  

After the surgery, Tarek was transferred to a reception centre for asylum seekers, where his rehabilitation started. 

With IOM support, he got a prosthetic leg, learnt Macedonian, received psychotherapy and joined group activities and walks. 

IOM’s Hamid Motamet Hosseini worked closely with Tarek. “Although in the beginning he was often confused and scared about the new situation with his leg, he was quite hopeful and determined to get back on his feet,” he recalls. “Every morning he practiced for one hour without the crutches. All of us who work in the centre were there for him, wishing him a speedy and full recovery.” 

Tarek hasn't heard from his parents and brothers since the night he left Afghanistan. “For most of my journey I had no access to a phone or internet,” he says. “Now I have a mobile phone and a few days ago I managed to get in touch with some friends of my father who are living in Kabul. They didn’t know about my family’s status when we talked, but they promised to try to find out and call me back.” 

When asked where he sees himself in the future, he said: “If I'm not able to find my parents and brothers, I wish to be reunited with my sister who lives with her husband and children in America. Since I am here completely alone, being with my sister and her family will be enough for me to be happy.” 

*Name changed