More than 200 Ahmadis from Hessen (Germany) are threatened with deportation to Pakistan. In their home country, they are discriminated against, threatened and feared for their lives as a religious minority.
This is where an Ahmadi lives. Kill.” These words are written by unknown people on the wall of Jaz Rai’s house. He is currently living with his wife and two daughters in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third-largest city. For his wife, it is clear that her husband’s life is no longer safe. Together, they decide that he must leave Pakistan.
The 64-year-old has been living in the house of his nephew Ahmad Roy in Frankfurt since 2014. Rai’s asylum procedure was rejected, and for three years he has only been tolerated in Germany. Every one to twelve weeks he has to have his toleration extended, at any time a letter with a deportation notice could flutter into the house. But deportation to Pakistan could be like a death sentence. Rai belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim religious community, whose rights to freedom of religion and belief are severely restricted in Pakistan. “Under Pakistani blasphemy laws, Ahmadis are forbidden to practice their faith, call their book of faith Koran or go to a mosque. They face drastic punishments up to the death penalty,” says Sigrid Krieg, Pakistan expert at Amnesty International. In addition to Rai, according to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, the German Ahmadiyya community headquartered in Frankfurt, 535 Ahmadis nationwide are threatened with deportation. In Hesse alone, there are said to be more than 200. The municipality, which claims to have around 45,000 members, has drawn up a list including the names, addresses and telephone numbers of those affected. The list is available to the FR.
The cases of rejected asylum applications under Ahmadis would have accumulated from 2018. According to Yanki Pürsün, the FDP’s social policy spokesman in the state parliament, the reason for this could be that since 2018, people without an identity document can also be deported. Timmo Scherenberg of the Hessian Refugee Council reports a similar story. “Pakistan is our child of concern,” he says. Since 2017, it has been easier to deport Pakistanis. “It’s completely absurd who’s on the plane: an 18-year-old who was born here and graduated from high school, or a branch manager at McDonald’s,” Scherenberg says.
According to the Interior Ministry, a total of 59 people were deported from Hesse to Pakistan last year, as in 2019, compared with 68 in 2018. The Hessian authorities do not record how many of them are Ahmadis separately.
The Ahmadiyya community does not want to stand idly by and finds support in politics and in the non-governmental organisation Pro Asyl. “We want to invite all parties to a round table first,” says Pürsün, who supports the Ahmadis. The left has already reacted and wants to bring a small question about the situation of the Ahmadis to the Bundestag, says Saadet Sönmez, her party’s spokeswoman on migration and integration policy in the Landtag. In the meantime, an expert opinion for the recognition of refugees by the Ahmadis is being examined per asylum. The basis for this is the Geneva Convention on Refugees, which states, for example, that refugee recognition is only possible “if there is no protection against persecution in any other part of the country of origin”.
The Foreign Office’s June 2020 report on the asylum and deportation situation in Pakistan states that Rabwah, its religious centre, offers protection from repression because they are largely among themselves there. However, Rabwah can be doubted as a place of protection.
Why? An Ahmadi told a hearing on his asylum procedure at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) that on 5 December 2016, one of their houses of worship was set on fire in Rabwah, where he lived, and that several private homes of its members had previously been set on fire. On 28 May 2010, more than 100 people were killed in their church in Lahore.
Pakistan is also one of the countries with the strictest blasphemy laws. Pakistan’s penal code “explicitly discriminates against religious minorities,” says expert Krieg. “Pakistani authorities arrest, detain and arbitrarily charge Ahmadis with blasphemy and other offenses. Security agencies have repeatedly participated in fabricated charges or failed to intervene in the case of violence against Ahmadis.
The government even promotes discriminatory practices. For example, all Muslim Pakistanis who apply for a passport must sign a declaration that they consider the founder of the Ahmadiyya community to be a forklift and consider Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.
Rai’s brother-in-law had to pay with his life in 2004 for the Ahmadis to be targeted in this way. “His colleagues murdered him while he was at work. The killers continue to walk around freely,” says Rai’s nephew. At least five Ahmadis have been killed since July 2020. In only two cases, police have taken a suspect into custody, according to Amnesty. The situation report of the Foreign Office states that the number of detainees is in the three-digit range. At least 17 people sentenced to death are currently expected to wait for execution, with the majority of cases involving Shiites and Ahmadis. In Pakistan, it is not a sin to kill an Ahmadi, Rai’s nephew says. The Qur’an says, “When a man kills a man, it is as if he has killed all mankind.”
Who ever receives asylum in Germany will ultimately decide the Bamf. In a personal interview, asylum seekers can explain their reasons for fleeing, their own persecution and the personal assessment of the circumstances they expect when they return to their country of origin. “Based on the personal hearing and the in-depth review of documents and evidence, the Bamf decides on the asylum application,” says a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
If the Office refuses an application for asylum, it is possible to bring an action before the competent administrative court. Then there are questions such as: How is faith interpreted? And is the person even persecuted? “The administrative courts judge differently,” says Peter von Auer, legal policy officer at Pro Asyl.