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 €3000) for a guaranteed “entry” to France. Hailing from a poor farming family in a remote village of Pakistan’s border district Sialkot, Faizan, being the youngest and single among three siblings, succeeded to persuade his father to fund this quest. His father happily agreed to arrange money not knowing that this was an illegal act and one that could risk Faizan’s life.
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 socioeconomic 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. “Traveling 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 maternal cousin was already living with his family. Faizan was also supported by his cousin to seek asylum. He would find out and do odd work to make € 35 to 40 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 shares his experience. Faizan also developed hernia and underwent a 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.”
“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 them for assistance so I could restart my life back in Pakistan.”
Faizan was provided with all the information and contact details of RSPN in Pakistan. He was also given a free ticket from OFII and finally came back. In Pakistan, Faizan contacted IRARA’s partner, RSPN, and followed the process set up for the reintegration of returnees.
After a long taxing episode of struggle to settle in Europe illegally, Faizan now looks forward to running a milk shop in his village. “I so 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 fascinating stories of Europe, but trust me you cannot enjoy Europe’s life without having a valid legal status there.”