To the untrained eye, Farid’s success in boxing, his human rights prize, the years spent by himself in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and a perilous journey to Portugal might lead you to think that he is an uncommonly mature young boy whose concerns are far different from those of other children of his age. However, Farid’s hopes and dreams are in keeping with his tender years.
He arrived in Portugal by himself in late 2012 in the framework of the Portuguese resettlement programme. Launched in 2007, the programme aims to offer, on an annual basis, 30 refugees the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity having spent, at times, many years in countries where this was not possible and where they were unable to return home safely.
During his first conversation with Dora Estoura, Farid’s case worker at the Portuguese Refugee Council’s (CPR) Reception Centre for Refugee Children (CACR) in Lisbon where he lives, when asked about his passion for boxing, Farid clarified things from the onset: “I don’t intend to be a champion, I know I will!” And so he was, at 15 years of age!
Separated from his family in war torn Afghanistan when he was still a child, it will not come as a surprise to learn that what Farid misses the most is his family. According to CPR’s President, Maria Teresa Tito de Morais, “boxing has been therapeutic”. Farid also attends classes in the local school and has made progress in learning Portuguese at the Reception Centre. One day he would like to become an architect. “I like to draw”, he says. Recent contact with his family has also given him hope that he might not be alone after all.
These days, Farid has become somewhat of a local celebrity and a role model for his fellow refugees at the CACR having been awarded the Human Rights Medal Prize for 2013 by the Portuguese Parliament in December of last year.
According to MP Fernando Negrão, who presided over the jury, the prize is recognition of Farid’s long journey and commitment but also a sign – “Portugal as a country must remain open to refugees, willing to receive them and help them integrate”.
Prepared by João Vasconcelos, Conselho Português para os Refugiados (CPR) and European Resettlement Network Focal Point for Portugal
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Photo 1: Farid alongside Ms Assunção Esteves, President of the Portuguese Parliament, during the awards ceremony/© Mr. Luís Saraiva - Assembleia da República/December 2013
Photo 2: An overview of the awards ceremony/© Mr. Luís Saraiva - Assembleia da República/December 2013