Thwarted ambitions: Migration dream over for young Pakistani

LALA MUSA: Ahmed Sohail is bewildered and angry. After eight years studying at the French government’s expense, he was deported to Pakistan, one of tens of thousands of Pakistanis ordered to leave the EU last year.

Now the 23-year-old spends his days killing time among the dusty concrete streets of Lala Musa.

In all, more than 32,000 Pakistanis were ordered to leave the European Union in 2011, 1,545 from France and 6,430 from Britain.

After so long in France, Ahmed says he feels like an alien in his native land and he has only one printable word for what has happened to him: “catastrophe”.

He arrived in France in 2006, aged 15, after his father, a farm labourer in Punjab, put him on a plane with a people smuggler and a fake passport.

“A land dispute with a neighbour was getting out of hand. I was the only son and he was afraid I would be killed,” Ahmed told AFP in excellent French.

On his arrival in France, he was taken into the care of the state and began a course to train as a plumber. Social services described him as “a student with a good chance of succeeding”.

Ahmed did not finish his course, because of health problems, he said, but his tutors said he had reached the required standard and could find a job.

An employer offered Ahmed a job on condition that he obtained a work permit, but a year went by with no progress on the paperwork.

On November 21 he was arrested on the Paris metro and sent to an immigration detention centre. At Christmas, his name appeared on the list of upcoming deportations.

On his arrival in Karachi, he was thrown in prison, the usual treatment for deportees, and there he discovered Pakistan’s dark side: violence, extortion and corruption.

“The police, the warders and the inmates said to me, ‘You’re French, you’ve got money, give us money or else.’ They came in threes to beat me up,” he said.

The French immigrants’ rights campaign group the Network for Education Without Borders (RESF) managed to get Ahmed released after a month for 400 euros, with the help of a Pakistani friend.

His case has been picked up by around 50 left-wing lawmakers, who have denounced the “dogged pursuit” of Ahmed in a letter.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls’ office stressed the rules had been followed, pointing out that Ahmed was “neither an orphan nor a graduate”.

“We’re punishing Ahmed for not being an orphan!” said Richard Moyon of RESF.