ISLAMABAD - Amjad Ali, 23, spent several sleepless nights during the bloody sectarian fighting in his restive Kurram Agency in near past but he has never experienced a perilous journey of crossing five countries to reach a landlocked European country Austria for seeking asylum to skip ongoing violence in his native area.

Ali recalls the day when he took a flight from Lahore to Tehran wherefrom he was promised by a smuggler to be landed directly in Vienna, capital of Austria, the country he and his other 18-member group had eyed for asylum.

As Ali along with his friends belonging to Kurram Agency and North Waziristan reached Tehran some eight months back, the human trafficker told them to rush to the holy city of Qom where they had to join another group of refugees from Syria.

Ali was deported from Austria and arrived at Peshawar airport on January 27 but he was denied entry by immigration authorities for having no passport and national identity card. The airline instead of taking him to Austria dumped him at Dubai airport where he stayed for a week as the UAE authorities too doubted his Pakistani nationality.

Recalling the journey when the human trafficker at Qom told them to set off for Turkey on foot, Ali narrated the 12 hours long walk over icy mountains between Iran and Turkey, running short of food and water.

And they had to reach Turkey without being noticed by the authorities.

A racket of three traffickers belonging to Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan had to take them to Austria charging each Pakistani Rs 350,000 and each trafficker, according to Ali, had their defined duties at different stages.

As the exhausted walkers reached Turkey, they were handed over to another trafficker who had to take them to Greece in a fishing boat that narrowly escaped being overturned in the sea.

“We screamed for help. The boat driver asked us to change seats to balance the ferry. At one stage I thought it would have been better if I was killed in sectarian war in my town.

At least my family members would have offered my funeral prayers. If the boat had capsized, my body would have disappeared,” Ali, who belongs to Burki village of Kurram Agency, told The Nation when he landed at Islamabad Airport on Thursday (February 4).

While Ali and his friends from North Waziristan (Farooq Dawar) and Parachinar (Hussain Karbalayi) were denied asylum in Austria, he said some of the Syrian refugees were extended stay in the refugee camp for additional interviews while two had breathed their last as they set off for Macedonia after reaching Greece.

“We entered Greece. We were tired. As we took some biscuits and did rest for some hours, the guide told us to walk to Macedonia. We thought as if our destination has reached. But it was not. Austria was our dream,” Ali told this reporter.

He said the country will offer them asylum keeping in view the hundreds of his area people who successfully reached Vienna in the same manner. At that time, Austria had opened its border for asylum seekers. “We were too late. Second they doubted us for exaggerating the severity of sectarian conflicts,” Ali said.

Recalling the perilous journey they made to Macedonia, Farooq Dawar said, “Mountains were rugged and the journey was long. We saw nothing except hills and the sky.”

He was deported to Pakistan on January 20 and was also denied entry at airport in Peshawar.

And finally the asylum seekers had to make their appearance in Austria after reaching Serbia, another landlocked country, before surrendering to police in Austria so that they could get entry to the refugee camp.

Ironically, the asylum applicants have to go through another ordeal when they were deported to Pakistan. Rejected by European countries as genuine refugees, their nationality is also doubted when they arrive in Pakistan.

The immigration authorities here deny them entry and are sent back to the country again where they have been denied asylum. Rejected by authorities in Peshawar, Amjad Ali was flown back to Dubai where he stayed for a week and begged for money to fill his stomach.

Amjad Ali was allowed entry at Islamabad airport after consistent pressure from authorities in Austria who were in touch with his family members in Kurram Agency to confirm the arrival of their relative.

It is to mention here that the deportees are issued ‘out passes’ by Pakistani mission abroad thus confirming their nationalities. “But even then, the airport authorities refuse to recognize us as citizens,” he regretted.

Foreign Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said the issue was related to interior ministry when he was asked as to why the immigration authorities deny the deportees’ entry when the missions abroad admit their nationalities as Pakistani.

There was no official version of interior ministry as it has no official spokesman to talk to media. However, an official of the ministry seeking anonymity said the immigration authorities had tightened noose around the deportees after Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan recently refused to give entry to passengers deported from European countries.