Fed up with years of war and shaky government, young Afghans are forking over their life savings to be smuggled into Europe, the New York Times reports. An American-led invasion once inspired optimism, but 18,000 residents sought asylum in Europe last year, nearly double the total in 2007. “I’m desperate,” says one 26-year-old. “People can’t find jobs here, and if you go to a place where there’s work, you’ll be killed in a week.”
Even privileged Afghans—like the host of an American Idol-style TV show and an aide to President Hamid Karzai—have fled the country. Smugglers report unprecedented business despite meager living conditions in Europe and an Afghanistan-to-Greece price tag of up to $25,000. “It’s death or destination,” explains one man, who traveled through 12 countries to reach Britain—and was deported back to Afghanistan.