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Dawood's Story
New Zealand
October 2003
Age: 16 years

Two years ago Dawood thought he was going to die. He was stuck on a boat which was full of refugees floating on the Pacific Ocean, and no-one in the world seemed to care.

"It was scary being on the boat. I thought I was going to die, and decided it was the end," he says.

Today the 16-year-old lives in a hostel in Auckland with 39 other Afghan boys who were on the Tampa boat that made international headlines. He goes to school at Selwyn College, where his favourite subject is science.

"I enjoy going to school. It was very dangerous when I was in Afghanistan - there was lots of fighting and often I couldn't get to school. Girls weren't allowed to go to school there, so my sister could never go," he says.

But life is still tough for Dawood - he misses his mother, father, two brothers and his little sister. He hasn't seen his mum for almost two years. His family still lives in Afghanistan, but they wanted Dawood to leave and get a better life.

"My family wanted me to leave because there is no future there. Every family has to give their boys to the armies to be soldiers, or they have to pay a lot to get the boys out of the army. If I had stayed I would be a soldier and would have to fight," he says.

Dawood manages to stay in contact with his family and says his sister is now allowed to go to school. In New Zealand, the Tampa boys are like a substitute family - they go to school together and live together.

"We had to choose whether to come to New Zealand or Nauru. I decided on New Zealand, even though I knew nothing about this country."