Chance of a new life trumps risks for Afghan refugees

Chance of a new life trumps risks for Afghan refugees

KABUL - An elderly Afghan man with a bearded, tired face gazes from the television screen and says sadly: "My son wouldn't listen to me. He borrowed money just to pay for his death."

The hard-hitting advert is part of a new campaign run by Afghanistan's refugee ministry to dissuade young men from using people smugglers to flee the war-torn country in search of a better life.

Using real families' stories, the publicity drive aims to highlight how traffickers and treacherous journeys pose a deadly threat to migrants who often face deportation even if they reach their intended destination.

The television clip shows the father, from the marginalised Hazara ethnic group, sitting in his shoe-repair stall remembering his son who tried to reach Australia.

"I told him repeatedly not to go, not to trust the smugglers," he says as the camera closes in on his distraught eyes. "But he went and now he is dead, drowned at sea."

Many Afghans are looking for an escape as more than a decade of international intervention winds down and fears grow that hardline Islamists or violent warlords will return to power.

Ambitious young men are needed to help the country to develop, but the exodus has picked up pace as uncertainty deepens, NATO-led troops pull out in 2014 and aid money dries up.

Afghans made 36,600 asylum claims in industrialised countries last year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), up from 36,200 in 2011.

Even 12 years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains the world's leading country of origin for refugees.

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