Quietly, quickly and with no light: Such are the orders from the young man as they prepare to set off. A group of 40 men, women and children are gazing at him in this bare, pitch-black room – frightened, exhausted faces in the wan glow of two flashlights. Those who fall back will be left behind.
They have come to Nimruz from many different provinces in Afghanistan, to this arid and austere southwestern corner of the country. Only from here is flight across the border still possible for those who aren’t rich enough to buy a visa or who don’t have relatives in Europe or America. Neighboring countries have tightly secured their borders to the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan," but the frontier is difficult to control here. The last path out of desperation and poverty leads through the desert. If you survive.
Every day, according to the estimates of several different human smugglers, more than 3,000 people arrive in Nimruz in order to sneak across the border on their way to the West. Young men fleeing the country in the search for work is nothing new, but ever since the Taliban took over power last August, they have been joined by farmers, engineers, public servants and entire families with children seeking to make it to Iran or beyond. "We have peace now, yes, but no economy, no jobs, no salaries," is the explanation given by almost everybody. They are joined by former soldiers, police officers and intelligence officials who were essentially given a bleak choice by the Taliban: leave – or die.