‘Sheryar’* sought international protection in Ireland in 2012 due to fears of his for his life in his native Pakistan. He spent the next six years living in different ‘Direct Provision’ centres.
I was introduced to him in 2018 by Spirasi’s befriending office. By then he had left his accommodation to stay with friends in Dublin as his appeal against a deportation order, which meant that he might be deported at any time, had been rejected by the Irish Supreme Court.
Sheryar and I met regularly after Friday prayers, and, depending on the weather, had a chat over a cup of tea in a Dublin city centre café or went to a nearby park. True to Pakistani hospitality, he always insisted on gifting me with biscuits, chocolate or fruit as we conversed about life and about how his family back home was doing. He is particularly proud of his daughter and son who are currently doing very well in college.
Sheryar’s precarious legal position here, aggravated by stress over possible deportation, exacerbated his medical conditions and he had major surgery last year. However, he drew hope from a newly announced ‘Scheme for the Regularisation of Undocumented Migrants’. We were directed by Spirasi to a competent immigration solicitor to assist us in preparing his
online application. Collecting all the required documentation, hospital records, meeting the solicitors, getting his Garda-vetting, writing relevant emails and more took much time. His application was ultimately completed last July.
Then the long wait began until Sheryar was informed on 25th April 2023 that he had been granted ‘Permission to Remain’ (Stamp 4). He has since been given his Irish Residence Permit and is understandably overjoyed and relieved.
I have been blessed to also witness similar happiness, relief and new hope of three other survivors of torture whom I befriended over the years and who have been granted residency in Ireland. My privileged experience of serving for many years in firstly Sierra Leone and later Pakistan – countries so different from Ireland and the Western world – have made me acutely aware of, and sensitive to, the myriad difficulties and challenges that newcomers have to deal with in coming to Ireland – not least that of racism.
Spirasi’s befriending service has afforded me an opportunity to reciprocate in a small way the acceptance, welcome and warm friendship that I experienced from innumerable Pakistani families, friends and work associates which made me feel at home there.
* Not his real name+