SANHE: Fleeing discrimination and violence, members of a minority community have abandoned their homes in Pakistan to find an unlikely refuge in China.
“Every day I heard the sound of guns,” said a 37-year-old surnamed Saeed of his former home Lahore. “We prayed every day, because we felt something could happen to us at any time.”
He is one of hundreds of people who have sought asylum in China in recent years, often from conflict and violence-stricken countries including Iraq and Somalia. Around 35 of the almost 500 UN-registered asylum seekers and refugees currently in China are Ahmadis.
Saeed, who arrived four years ago, said, “From a security point of view, China is good. There is almost no terrorism compared to Pakistan, where there is killing and persecution of minorities every day,” he told AFP in a rented apartment in Sanhe. The Ahmadi refugees in Sanhe said they paid middle-men up to $3,000 each for Chinese visas - more than twice the average yearly income in Pakistan. Once in China, Saeed said, “You have to do everything for yourself.”
He lives off overseas family donations and added, “I don’t expect anything from the Chinese.”
Teenager Laiba Ahmad, who arrived around two years ago with her mother and several siblings, had no doubts, even though she does not have enough Chinese to attend school. “I am happy here compared with Pakistan,” she said. “Pakistan was dangerous. We could not go outside without our brothers and fathers, if you are a woman especially.”
On a recent afternoon around 10 refugees gathered in Saeed’s flat for an English lesson. Practising the present tense, they called out descriptions of their jobless lives.
“We play football daily,” offered Ahsan Ahmad, 22. “We offer prayer daily,” said another student.
Yasir Chaudry, 24, a former air-conditioning engineer who left his wife in Pakistan, shares a crumbling apartment with two other refugees who rise in the late afternoon and fill their days surfing the Internet, watching DVDs, or throwing around a frisbee held together with black masking tape. “All I have time to do is think, so I think about bad things, like how my family is not together,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave my country. These problems all come into my mind.” afp
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