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I still don’t feel free in UK, says Christian who fled ‘torture’ in Pakistan | UK News

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A Christian threatened with deportation to Pakistan has told of how he still doesn’t feel free despite being given leave to remain in the UK.

Azeem Wazir, who now lives in Bristol, came to the UK four years ago after he was accused of dishonouring Islam in his native Pakistan.

The 45-year-old Pakistani Christian fled his home country after he protested against the country’s blasphemy laws and a fatwa was issued against him.

His family say if he returns he will be jailed and possibly killed, while he fears he will be murdered for his faith.

His application for asylum in the UK was denied in March, but he has been granted discretionary leave to remain for 30 months, which will be renewable as long as he continues to show good character.

He has been working as a cleaner at Woodlands Church in Bristol, and spent more than three weeks at Colnbrook detention centre near Heathrow Airport before he was told he would be able to stay in the UK.

Mr Wazir says he still doesn’t feel like a free man despite being able to walk the streets again.

He said: “I protested against the arrest of Asia Bibi, and I was in lots of protests against blasphemy laws.

“They killed my minister.

“The last time I protested they burnt the Joseph colony.”

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM:  The new Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre is seen near London's Heathrow Airport, 16 September 2004. The centre, which opened on September 15, will house up to 360 immigration detainees whose removal from the UK is imminent after having been denied asylum or entering the country illegally and who are at risk of absconding.  AFP PHOTO /PETER MACDIARMID/POOL  (Photo credit should read PETER MACDIARMID/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Colnbrook centre near Heathrow where Mr Wazir was held for three weeks

:: Christian in plea to stay in UK as he could face death penalty if deported to Pakistan

The Joseph colony was an area of about 100 homes in Lahore which was subject to a violent attack in 2013. Hundreds of Christian families were displaced in the attack.

Mr Wazir said he was protected in Pakistan by his friends and supporters, but after a fatwa was issued against him, it became clear he could not stay there.

He claims there are two organisations in Pakistan who want him killed.

“They are a strong network, they have strong communications and they were working against us,” he said.

Mr Wazir was caught up in the Lahore church bombings in March 2015, that killed 15 people and wounded 70 more.

He said: “They burned me, tortured me.

“I was in one of those churches in Lahore. We saw a lot of blood, a lot of bodies.

“You can’t imagine it.”

He fled Pakistan for the UK in April 2015 and began the asylum process a couple of months later.

Mr Wazir, who is also a father, said he faced being told officials did not believe him when he presented evidence of fatwahs and photos of his torture.

He carried on signing on with police every month, until he was arrested in April this year and told his application for asylum had been rejected.

Mr Wazir showed the officers papers which showed he had a right to work within the UK, which had been issued just a month before.

He was taken to Colnbrook where he was told he would be deported. However, he was granted a bail hearing, which was delayed in order for a full judicial review to take place.

Mr Wazir said: “They play with your mind, they give you so much stress you can’t imagine.

“It is like a mental prison there. You constantly see the aeroplanes going over.”

Azeem celebrates being released from the centre
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Mr Wazir celebrates being granted leave to stay in the UK

He claimed he saw someone attempt to take their life when they were in the centre, saying “it is a horrible situation”.

He said: “I told the officials if I go back, they won’t just kill me, they will do much worse. They will want to make an example of me to other Christians.”

On the day he was told he could leave the centre, he had been praying in the Colnbrook chapel.

He said: “The officer was very nice, he told me ‘we believe you. You are leaving soon’.

“I asked for the papers and then I got my things. I left some of it for those who are still in there.

“It was a big miracle in my life.”

He said his experience has affected him, and has knocked his self-confidence.

Mr Wazir said he also fears for his wife and children who have been left in Pakistan and who he says are still in danger and subject to constant attacks on their home.

The church cleaner said: “For me it is very hard to think about this whole situation.

“This is our country, this is a Christian country, if you come here you are safe.

“For the Christians in Pakistan it is not a good place to live.

“Even now [after release] I’m still not feeling like I am a free man. I feel very strange walking around and scared if I see a police car.

“That is after three weeks, imagine the people who have to be there for three months, eight months or a year.

“I wake up at 3am unable to sleep.”

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