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“It was no life. I desperately wanted to go back to my family”

Faizan Abbas pictured with IRARA partner, RSPN . Through to the reintegration programme he bought milk producing buffalos and now runs a milk shop in his village © Irara
Faizan Abbas was only 20 when he was lured by a human trafficker into chasing his dreams of living abroad in France.

He was asked to arrange Rs 490,000 (a little over € 3.000) for a ‘guaranteed entry’ to France. Hailing from a poor farming family in a remote village of Pakistan’s border district Sialkot, Faizan, being single and the youngest of three siblings, managed to persuade his father to fund this quest. His father agreed to arrange money not aware that this was illegal and could risk Faizan’s life.

Arduous journey

Faizan was asked to pay Rs 200,000 in advance and the rest of the money after reaching France. With high hopes of a prosperous future, he set off on his journey from Sialkot to Quetta via train in June 2015. Along with him were around ten other young boys, from a similar background who had also paid huge sums of money to travel to Europe illegally.

From Quetta they crossed the Iran border in trucks and reached Tehran. The journey continued in containers, boats and sometimes walking on hilly and rugged terrains. Faizan eventually entered France after thirty days of nerve-wracking and life threatening travel.

“Travelling in the boat from Turkey to Greece, I saw dead bodies floating in the ocean. I witnessed worn-out and distressed people from many parts of the underdeveloped world struggling to get into Europe,” says Faizan.

Faizan spent nearly two years of hardships in Béziers, a town of southern France, where his cousin was already living with his family. Faizan was also supported by his cousin to seek asylum. He got by with odd jobs, making around € 35 a day. Since Faizan was living with his cousin, his situation was somewhat better than other illegal immigrants in France.

“I spent two months in Paris on my own and these were the very tough days for me,” he recalls. Faizan also developed a hernia and underwent surgery in Béziers. He could not work for months. “I was disillusioned and desperately wanted to go back and join my family. But I was afraid of my father’s anger for wasting his hard earned money.”

Reintegration support for a new start

“I learnt about returnee reintegration support from a fellow villager who had received assistance and was now running his business in Pakistan. This seemed an opportunity to compensate for the losses I suffered during my illegal pursuit. I did not want to extend asylum. So I approached the relevant office and told them that I wanted to go back voluntarily. I also requested assistance so I could restart my life back in Pakistan.”

Faizan was provided with all the information and contact details of IRARA’s partner at that time, Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN), in Pakistan. He received a free ticket from the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) and returned home. Once back in Pakistan, Faizan contacted RSPN, who helped him through the reintegration process.

Through the reintegration programme and support he bought some milk producing buffalo and is now running a successful milk shop in his village. After a long taxing episode of struggle to settle in Europe illegally, Faizan looks forward to a better future back home.

“I really want to tell all young men out there who think it’s quite easy to go and live in Europe without legal permission, please DO NOT trust these human traffickers and risk your lives.

“They simply don’t care if someone makes it to Europe or dies on the way, they just want to earn more money. They keep spreading stories about all the opportunities in Europe, but trust me you cannot enjoy a good life in Europe without having a valid legal status there.”

This story has been reproduced courtesy of IRARA

Please note that the service provider in Pakistan has since changed to WELDO.

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