One of the eight Pakistanis deported from the Servite Monastery in Vienna speaks about his interrogation at the Islamabad airport, his nights in the forest and his fear of the murderers of his brothers. This is a translation of Servitenkloster-Flüchtling: „Ihr habt mich in den Tod zurückgeschickt“, Profil Online, 10 August 2013.
By Edith Meinhart and Martin Staudinger, with the collaboration of Anna Giulia Fink
Let’s call him Muhammad, although it’s not his real name. That doesn’t matter. What matters is his message: “You’ve sent me back to my death,” he says, referring the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Asylum Agency and the police. It’s now been two weeks since Mohammed was deported to Pakistan — where he has no fear of persecution, in the view of the Austrian authorities. Seven other asylum seekers from the Servite Monastery were also deported at the same time, to the applause of the FPÖ (the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria) and the tabloids.
“In each individual case, it’s examined in detail whether there’s danger in the home country,” said ÖVP (center-right Austrian People’s Party) Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner at end of July in justification of the controversial deportations.
Two weeks later, this must be doubted: except for Muhammad, whom Profil Magazine was able to contact, all the detainees have disappeared since they were delivered by Austrian police officers to passport control at Benazir Bhutto airport in Islamabad.
A Pakistani BBC journalist inquired of the authorities what had happened to the men whose asylum applications had been rejected by Austria. He was told that they had “not entered (the country).” As far as is known, they have also not contacted their friends and supporters.
A month ago, Mohammed and his seven fellow countrymen were celebrating the start of Ramadan in the Servite Monastery. As the fasting month was coming to an end last week, and rice and lentil dishes were laid out on a cloth on the floor, they were no longer there. From time to time their names came up and someone looked for photos of them on a mobile phone.
The Austrian asylum authorities find it credible that Muhammad is threatened. However, it is a criminal gang that has been after him. He isn’t persecuted for religious or political reasons, so he is not considered a refugee.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Profil Magazine repeatedly reached him by phone and conducted an interview through an interpreter about his situation. According to the assessment of a Pakistani aid organization that has had contact with him on the spot, it’s impossible for Mohammed to remain where he is now: “His life is in danger here.”
Profil: Mohammed, where are you?
Mohammed: I’m in my hometown. Three of my brothers were shot, and I’m afraid that I’ll also be killed.
Profil: The police can’t protect you?
Muhammad: People are killed here every day before their eyes. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t come to Austria as an economic refugee, but because I sought protection.
Profil: Were the killers of your brothers found?
Muhammad: The deeds were reported and recorded, but no one was arrested.
Profil: Can you go into hiding somewhere?
Mohammed: I am not safe anywhere. In Pakistan, everything is corrupt. The Mafia is working with the government and vice versa.
Profil: Where do you sleep?
Muhammad: Sometimes I visit relatives in the city. But before dusk, I go out to the fields or in the forest. There I spend the night. I can always be attacked. My mom says, “Please get out!” But I have no money to escape.
Profil: How did you get from the airport to the place where you are now?
Mohammed: When I was deported, the police gave me a package in which were 105 euros. But there’s nothing left.
Profil: Do you know anything of the men who were deported with you?
Mohammed: I saw them for the last time at the monastery. The police held each of us in a separate room.
Profil: On the plane you didn’t meet each other?
Mohammed: I was alone, accompanied by three policemen. They came to me the day before the deportation and said I’d be deported like a human if I behaved like one, but if I didn’t, I’d be forced. I said I didn’t want to be deported at all. The next day they took me to the airport.
Profil: What happened after landing in Islamabad?
Muhammad: The Austrian police handed me over to the Pakistani immigration police, and they forwarded me to the officials of the Federal Intelligence Agency (FAI), which held me three to four hours and interrogated me.
Profil: What did they want to know from you?
Mohammed: They asked me how I managed to come to Austria. They wanted to know the route.
Profil: Nothing else? Did you tell them you were afraid for your life?
Muhammad: The officers only wanted to know how I had come to Austria. They did not care why I went or who was killed.
Profil: How did the police behave with you?
Mohammed: No policeman there treats other people like humans, but like dogs.
Profil: Were you beaten?
Mohammed: No. Their methods were pushing, swearing, insulting.
Profil: Did you have to give them money to get away?
Mohammed: No, they took nothing from me.
Profil: What did you do after you were released?
Mohammed: I tried to contact my family. When I was in Austria, I did not know that my brothers had been killed in April. I went to Lahore. There I learned where my mom has been living.
Profil: Is she in hiding?
Mohammed: Yes, for a long time. The murder of my brothers is a shock to her. She said to me: “My son, I’m an old woman. I don’t care about myself, but I’m very worried about you. It’s not good that you’ve come back. “
Profil: Are you the only child she has left?
Mohammed: I have two brothers. They have fled. One is abroad, the other no one knows where he is or whether he is still alive.
Profil: Where are your dead brothers buried?
Mohammed: In a neighboring village.
Profil: Do you know who killed them?
Mohammad: This was a criminal group whose enmity we incurred. It has a lot of power, money, and connections to the government.
Profil: How many members does it have?
Mohammed: There are 400 to 500 people who reside in villages and cities across the country.
Profil: Have you been threatened by the group since you have been back in Pakistan?
Mohammed: No, they have not found me.
Profil: How do you spend the day? Where do you get food?
Mohammed: I spend my time praying so that nothing happens to me. I can’t think about food. I’m just trying to bring my life into safety.
Profil: What should happen next?
Muhammad: Please bring me back. I have no opportunity to tell the Austrian politicians, but in my heart I know that you’ve sent me back to my death.