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Sanawar was attacked in his home village near Lahore, Pakistan and needed to flee. He came to Europe with human smugglers and almost lost his life at Mediterranian. Now he is working hard to be able to stay in Finland and start a family here.

At the age of 20, Sanawar left his home village near Lahore, Pakistan, with his best friend Ahmad after experiencing harassment on the street and, finally, an attempt on their lives. They travelled to the Iranian border, crossing on foot in the middle of the night. In Iran, Ahmad was arrested for illegal entry.


Sanawar continued onwards and made a deal with a human smuggler. He lay in a dark container for a week, with little to no food or water, until he made it to Libya. There, he once again found a smuggler and paid a large sum to cross the Mediterranean and enter Italy. On the first day of the crossing, the captain lost control of the vessel. The passengers had no food or water and the sanitary facilities were unusable. The boat drifted for three days. Sanawar had already come to terms with his impending death when the crew of a passing fishing vessel alerted the Italian authorities.


Sanawar lived in Italy and Germany, doing odd jobs at construction sites and in restaurants. He never received a residence permit. After 18 months, his friend Ahmad was released from an Iranian prison and made it to Europe. Together, they decided to go to Finland as they had heard it was a peaceful and safe country. Sanawar and Ahmad wanted to start anew, to study and work. In November 2015, they arrived in Finland and applied for asylum.


Sanawar was frustrated by the institutional, idle life at the reception centre. He had no identity documents as his passport had been stolen in Libya. As a result, Sanawar had to wait for six months until he was granted the right to work in Finland.


In the summer 2016, Sanawar learned from his lawyer that he would likely be returned to Italy under the Dublin Regulation as the Italian authorities had taken his fingerprints upon his arrival in the country. The decision to deny the processing of his asylum application and to return him to Italy was finalised in January 2017. Sanawar appealed the decision in the administrative court.


Sanawar was not particularly depressed about having his application process denied. After being granted the right to work in the summer 2016, he had been constantly working several jobs at once. During the day, he worked for a cleaning company and a meal delivery service. During the night, he cleaned tables in a karaoke bar. He also found a rental apartment with some Pakistani friends. In the summer 2017, Sanawar found permanent employment as a night cleaner at a bus depot. Around that time, he also received a decision from the administrative court: his appeal regarding the asylum decision had been denied.


The permanent job, however, gave Sanawar the chance to apply for a residence permit on the grounds of employment. The missing passport remained an issue. The Finnish Immigration Service does not grant employment-based residence permits to people with no passport, and alien passports are not granted for the purpose of applying for a work permit. Finland does not have a Pakistani embassy and, without a passport, Sanawar cannot legally travel to the embassy in Stockholm.


However, Sanawar was eventually able to obtain a passport and submitted it to the Finnish Immigration Service in November 2017. In February 2018, he received a letter – he had been granted a work-based residence permit for one year. As he continued working hard, the residence permit was extended by four years in 2019.


In January 2020 Sanawar travelled to Pakistan for the first time for seven years – to meet his family and to get married. According to tradition, his parents had chosen a spouse for him. After the wedding, Sanawar continues to work hard to earn his place in Finland and to be also able to bring his wife to Finland. After two close encounters with death, he now wants to live.

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