At the Pakistani protest against deportation at Better Days for Moria, I am approached by a Pakistani man in his 30s that wanted to tell me his story and for me to tell as many people of his story as possible. He invites me to his tent, his home for the past few days since he arrived on the island of Lesvos.
His name is Kawish, a Punjab Pakistani, very fluent in English. Here is his story…
Kawish wanted me to know him, for the world to know him, but not as a refugee or migrant but as a human being, not as a terrorist, nor as an illegal immigrant, but as a man who was fleeing from the terror of the Taliban and from the prosecution of his own government because of his religion as well as to get his family to a safe country to give himself and his family a better life.
Back in Pakistan Kawish was a successful business owner who owned his own motorcycle parts business in the city of Khanewal which is 600km from Islamabad. Khanewal is the capital of the Khanewal Province in the Punjab District of Pakistan.
Kawish instantly came across to me as a very intelligent man from the moment we met and as he explained to me his background, I learnt that he also held a university degree in Computer Science. We started talking about his journey from Pakistan to Lesvos which started with connecting with a people trafficker in his own country that is linked to an organised network of smugglers from Pakistan to Europe. A network that brings in illegally several billions of dollars per year.
Kawish told me he paid over 6000euros to his contact in Pakistan to get him to Europe. He has now been on the island of Lesvos for 5days but already he faces the very real chance of deportation back to either Pakistan or Turkey.
He went on to tell me that his religion is Ahmadiyya Muslim which is a sect of Islam that is often targeted by the Taliban and his very own government don’t even show a positive eye on his religion. Kawish had to leave, and take a perilous journey to Europe for the sake of his family.
So sit back, pull out a map and follow the words of Kawish’s journey of false freedom… His journey is that of adventure over mountains, evading authorities and being shot at by smugglers after yet more money after they have already been paid.
Kawish’s journey to a promised freedom started with a 13hr drive by car from his home in Khanewal in the north to Karachi in the south. He then travelled by train and bus to Gwadar along the south coast of Pakistan.
From there Kawish took his first smuggler boat, the journey from Gwadar across the sea to Iran. Once he arrived in Iran, Kawish travelled 3700km – some by bus, some by car, some by walking. The toughest part was when he reached the mountains on the Maku border of Iran and Turkey, this was a 7hr trek over the mountains and into Dogubyazit, Turkey.
From Dogubyazit, Kawish took a bus to Istambul and then another bus to Ayvalik which took over 8hrs. All the costs of each of these buses Kawish took was extra expenses on top of the 6000euro he had already paid the initial smuggler back in Pakistan. Ayvalik is a Turkish Port across the Aegean and north east of Mytilini on the island of Lesvos.
This would be Kawish’s first contact with the Turkish Smugglers. Kawish an many more refugees seeking the safety of Europe were loaded onto a coach by smugglers to where their dingy was waiting. As the refugees along with Kawish got off the bus and headed for a wooded area the smugglers ordered them to get down and wait. This was the moment Kawish had been waiting for! In the dead of the night, he could see across the 7miles of sea, the lights that lit up the Lesvos shore, hope was in touching distance.
Under the orders of the smugglers, Kawish and the rest of the refugees were told to grab the small boat and carry it to the shore, get in and set off, they were now in the water, cramped in this small rubber dingy with just a small 30cc engine to make it across to Lesvos. Still in Turkish waters the boat was spotted by Turkish Coast Guard and forced to return to the shore of Turkey from which they had just left! Kawish and the rest of the refugees dreams swept away by the aggressive manner that the Turkish Coast Guard used to force the boat back, nearly capsizing his small boat full of men, women and children.
Back on the shore, Kawish and the rest of the refugees were ordered by the smugglers to get out of sight and whilst down on the floor the smugglers then got aggressive, hitting many of the refugees with the butts of their AK-47 Rifles which most of the smugglers were carrying. Kawish then out of the blue feels a crack to his head, followed by another. The smuggler whilst hitting Kawish with the rifle was shouting to turn everyone’s pockets out, the smugglers at this point were very restless! Even though these refugees had given thousands to the smugglers, they still wanted more; the refugees were left with nothing but empty pockets. Then came the crack of gun fire from one of the smugglers AK-47s, followed by the rest of the smugglers firing, the refugees along with Kawish started to run for their lives, the smugglers were just firing upon the refugees. Kawish was left with no other choice like so many other refugees before him to acquire more money, many work for peanuts for ruthless con man employers abusing the refugee situation whilst the government and law enforcement turn a blind eye and often take bribes and back hander’s. Others find loans from family members or they raid more of their personal savings, any means possible to get across from Turkey into Europe.
So it comes time for Kawish’s second attempt to get across the dangerous 7mile stretch of water to Lesvos, this time by the will of Alah Kawish tells me they make it into Greek waters and are approached by a Greek Coast Guard ship that rescues them from an already 3hr journey in the dingy where the engine had cut out and had left them just drifting.
Kawish had started his journey way back in Pakistan on 30th January 2016 and safely arrived at the Mytilini Port on Lesvos on the 11th March 2016, some 42days later.
Kawish leaves behind him a wife and two daughters aged 15months and 6yrs. His wife Amdulnoor told him before he left that he had to do this for the best of us.
Kawish has applied legally numerous times to try and emigrate to give his family a better and safer life. His first application was for a general VISA for his mother and himself in 2012 for Germany where he was sponsored by a cousin who lives in Germany, he was denied.
Kawish also then applied for both Italy and Spain and again was denied. Kawish also has a cousin in the UK, but with the current UK stance in immigration, he didn’t feel it was a viable option and is still hoping for Germany. He was sold a dream, a false promise by the smugglers that they would get him to Germany, but now on Lesvos, he sees that his journey has come to an end with no chance of being allowed to continue his journey into Western Europe and faces the real threat of being deported with just two choices, either Turkey or Pakistan.
At this point knowing he is restricted to Lesvos and is refused entry into the mainland of Greece. He knows he is stranded on Lesvos for now but believes if Greece just allowed every refugee and migrant to travel to Athens, he would find a way through into Macedonia and onwards to Germany. He is going to apply again to Germany for asylum on the basis he is from a targeted religious sect and has a personal history of personal persecution and threats against him and his family’s lives.
Kawish is just one of over 500 Pakistani’s at Better Days for Moria Camp on Lesvos and is facing the real inevitability he will have to choose between deportations to Turkey of Pakistan. There are many more stories like his.
For information about Kawish’s religion go to: Ahamedi Muslim – www.alislam.org