Asos Hassan is among thousands of people from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq who have risked their lives trying to reach Europe this year.
Desperate to escape economic hardship and political repression, the 28-year-old university graduate from Koya, a town located east of the capital Erbil, has twice tried to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece, but was deported by Turkish authorities.
Despite the failed attempts, he plans to return to Turkey and keep trying until he reaches his destination.
“I will keep at it even if I get deported dozens of times,” said Hassan. “I’d rather die than continue living this miserable life,” he added, explaining he has struggled to find employment for years and feels hopeless about the future.
Like Hassan, Kamaran Aziz, a 21-year-old from Halabja, tried to reach Europe through Belarus but was deported by local authorities when his visa expired last week.
Aziz paid Kurdish smugglers $6,000 to make the journey but instead found himself detained and beaten by Belarusian border police before they forced him home. Aziz told Al Jazeera he would rather die trying again than stay in the Kurdish region.
Many of the nearly 30 people who lost their lives trying to cross the English Channel last week were from the Kurdish region.
Iraqi Kurds have also died on the border between Belarus and Poland as hundreds more remain stranded in sub-zero temperatures while trying to cross into the European Union.
These tragic events have highlighted the growing wave of migration out of the Kurdish region and left many wondering why people would undertake such perilous journeys to leave an area rich in oil resources and long hailed as a haven of stability and a model of development for the rest of the country.