Twelve days locked in the dark, then hope

After a harrowing journey from Afghanistan, Dounia finds hope in Greece

By Angela Hawke
Dounia, a 12 year old refugee from Afghanistan studies at her new school in Greece.
19 May 2017

“I have a lot of things in my heart and they are bad and good, but a lot of bad.”

Dounia, aged 11, fled from Afghanistan with her family to escape conflict. Their journey was harrowing. Smugglers in Turkey kept her family locked in the dark for 12 days. Dounia was terrified that the smugglers would kill them or take their money without helping them.

After two lost years, she now lives safely in Greece with her family, but she is still haunted by the fear she experienced on her journey.

"We want to be safe like Europe people. Why they are safe? Why? Why we are not safe?” she asks.

For Dounia, and many other refugee children, school now provides a welcome sense of security and normalcy. She’s back in the classroom, learning Greek and English.


UNICEF supports the long-term integration of refugee and migrant children like Dounia into the communities where they now live. In Greece, UNICEF reinforces national efforts to protect more than 20,000 vulnerable refugee and migrant children.

Here and in the other countries with refugee and migrant populations, we help to provide education and psychosocial services for refugee and migrant children while strengthening national child protection systems to benefit every vulnerable child.

Our support for education is part of our Agenda for Action for refugee and migrant children, which aims to change attitudes in every country.

  1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
  2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating.
  3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
  4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services.
  5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

We must all stand with #ChildrenUprooted.