Life as a failed asylum seeker

Alan Fisher meets 'Ahmed' in Denmark, a man denied asylum and now in hiding.


    Ahmed works odd jobs for little money to help his family survive

    We meet near a railway station close to the centre of Copenhagen, the Danish capital.

    Ahmed (not his real name) has thick, black hair swept back and a jacket that looks too thin in the biting cold of the late afternoon.

    In depth

    Denmark's forgotten asylum seekers

    Arriving from Turkey, he has been in Denmark for a long time, but doesn't want to say how long.

    His father was a member of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), a group fighting to create a separate Kurdish homeland.

    But he was killed by Turkish army special forces.

    Ahmed was then served his conscription papers for the Turkish army, but he didn't want anything to do with the people who had killed his father.

    Fled country

    Worried he too might be killed, Ahmed fled, first to Germany, then on to Denmark.

    He applied for asylum and waited three years for a decision. His lawyer argued his life was at risk because of his family connections and that he simply couldn't return.

    The Danish panel listened carefully, and then ruled against him. At the asylum centre, he waited and wondered when they would come to deport him.

    At that point, Ahmed decided he could not let that happen, and so he disappeared. He walked out of the camp and became a "ghost".

    Ahmed lives in an apartment, he works sometimes, he even has a family, but to the Danish authorities he doesn't exist.

    "I cannot get sick. If I went to a doctor or a hospital, that would let people know where I am. I rarely go out. Even being here with you is a risk. I try to be invisible," he says.

    Life left behind

    He helps with the cost of running his home by taking odd jobs for cash where he can.

    Ahmed decided to became a 'ghost'
    In his faltering English he says: "I know the pay is poor. I know it's much less than they would pay normally but what else can I do? I cannot complain. I need the money."

    As we walk by the river, we talk about the life he left behind.

    "I love my land. I love the people there, my family. I have not spoken to them for years. I cannot come to the surface," he says.

    I ask what the hardest thing is about staying hidden?

    His head drops and he speaks slowly and quietly: "I have to lie, it seems all the time. And I have to remember what lies I have told. What names, what stories, what places.

    "It is very stressful but I do not like to lie. Every day I worry I will slip up on one little thing and that will be enough.

    "They will come, there will be a knock on the door and I will be taken away."

    'Cannot win'

    Michala Clante Bendixen helps run the Underground Committee for Refugees in Copenhagen.

    A graphic artist, she does what she can to help those who have lost their cases and melted away to join the faces in the crowd.

    "There are many like Ahmed. If he returns, he could be killed because of his family connections," she says.

    "Under EU rules, he could apply for asylum again because his country is considered dangerous, but if he filed papers, they would know where he was and deport him before the case could be heard.

    "He cannot win so has to live the way he does."

    Ahmed says maybe one day it will be safe for him to return to his homeland, but for the moment Denmark is where his lives; in full sight, but invisible.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Improving eco-efficiency within a capitalist growth-oriented system will not save the environment.