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Bristol based Pakistani Christian fears death if deported

by Cara Bentley

Azeem Wazir is due to be sent back to his homeland on Friday and is currently being held at Colnbrook detention centre.

He attends a Catholic church in Bristol and works as a caretaker at Woodlands Church in the city - where he also lives in a community house with the pastor.

Mr Wazir came to the UK in 2015, leaving behind his family in Lahore because he had been targeted by Islamic extremists and feared for his life.

Dave Mitchell, senior pastor at Woodlands church told Premier that Azeem is a "kind" and "warm" man who was kept in detention when he went to a regular signing on at a police station and wasn't allowed to leave.

Mr Mitchell told Premier Christian Radio's News Hour: "He's been part of a wonderful Catholic Church in Bristol, but then he's come to live with me in my community house and we've become really close. And so, you know, every day someone's gone up from Bristol to the detention centre to see him since he was arrested last week.

"Like anybody who's got a pending appeal for right of asylum, he was signing on the police station and showed up to sign and was just not allowed to leave and later that evening whisked up to Heathrow, so didn't have any clothes or made any preparations and then there's just kind of a week's notice - 'You're going to be on a plane back to Pakistan'".

To listen to the full interview with Dave Mitchell, who Azeem Wazir lives with, click here:

When non UK-citizens are seeking asylum or appealing an asylum rejection they are required to report to police stations to 'sign-on' at regular intervals.

A Fatwah (a legal ruling from an Islamic leader) was issued against Azeem because he had campaigned for Christian freedoms in Pakistan, such as supporting Asia Bibi, Christian sports players and being involved in a campaign called 'Stop Killing Christians'.

According to the petition to stop his deportation, his family have continued to receive threats, including unknown people firing weapons outside their home and stoning the building.

Mr Wazir's family expect him to be put in prison immediately if he returns and charged with blasphemy against Islam, a crime which carries the death penalty.

There's also concern that attempts on his life will be made by extremists.

Premier contacted the Home Office and asked why he is at risk of being sent to a country that the Foreign Office said last week is noteworthy for its 'severity of punishment' towards Christians.

They responded saying: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. Each case is assessed on its merits and individuals have the right to appeal to an independent immigration court.

"Where a decision has been made that a person does not require international protection, removal is only enforced when we and the courts conclude that it is safe to do so, with a safe route of return.

"We do not routinely comment on individual cases."

The Christian population in Pakistan is 1.6% - 2.5% of the population (2,600,000 people) according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The FCO issued an interim report last week into the persecution of Christians around the world, citing Pakistan as one of the more dangerous places to be a believer, saying: "there is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia, whereby the perpetrators raise levels of fear amongst the Christian community and attempt to suppress the community's appetite to practice its right to public expression of freedom of religion and belief."

The report, conducted by the Bishop of Truro and ordered by Jeremy Hunt, went on to say that Christian girls in Pakistan are systematically targeted and kidnapped, textbooks are used in schools that have contempt for non-Muslims and laws are used to criminalise conversion.

It particularly highlights Pakistan's extreme laws around blasphemy, with life imprisonment and death being legal.

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