‘I feel like a prisoner’: Christian man who was deported to Pakistan living ‘in hiding’ due to death threats

May Bulman
Asher Sampson

A Christian man who was deported from the UK despite claims he had been threatened with execution by Islamic extremists in Pakistan has told The Independent he is living in hiding and in fear for his life.

Asher Samson, 42, said he feels felt like a prisoner in his own home as he is unable to leave the house without the risk of being attacked. He was forcibly removed to Pakistan, his country of birth, last year.

He first arrived in the UK in 2004 to carry out his theology training in order to become a pastor, but later applied for asylum on the basis that he had received death threats from Islamic extremists during visits home.

Mr Samson's asylum claim was refused in 2018 and shortly afterwards he was detained in Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre in Lincolnshire and issued removal directions. He was initially granted bail, but the Home Office detained him again a week later and deported him the day before he was due to attend a meeting to submit fresh evidence for his claim.

Prior to his removal, Mr Samson told The Independent prior to his removal he was “terrified” at the prospect of being sent back to his home city of Abbottabad in Pakistan, where says he has “no one and nowhere to go”.

Just over a year after the deportation, he is living in a small flat in an undisclosed location. He said he is forced to move regularly with the help of his cousin because it is dangerous to stay in one place.

Mr Samson said he was followed upon his arrival at an airport in Pakistan, and stones were thrown at the accommodation arranged by his cousin.

Speaking from Pakistan, Mr Samson told The Independent: “I feel so unsafe. I don’t leave the house. I’m like a wasted man now. I can’t work, I can’t go to see people. I spend my days staring at the walls.

“It’s like I’m in a detention centre again. But there, they come and lock you up three times a day. Here, I’m locked up all day, all night.”

Mr Samson’s current bedroom, where he says he spends his days ‘staring at the walls’

The Pakistani national has three siblings who all live outside the country due to the risk of religious persecution, he said. One sister lives in New Zealand while his brother and other sister, who both have spousal and unmarried partner visas, are settled in the UK.

His sister Esther Walker, who lives in Birmingham, has written a letter to Boris Johnson highlighting the fact that he pledged in his Christmas message to “stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity” – and calling on him to “urgently review” the safety of Mr Samson’s deportation.

“After he got deported to Pakistan he had to keep changing locations for safety and was unable to stay in one place. We remain deeply worried for the security and safety of Asher’s life in Pakistan,” she states in the letter.

Three weeks after he was deported, Mr Samson’s mother – who had been splitting her time between her children in Britain and New Zealand – moved in with him so she could go out to buy him food and medicine. He said that due to having no income, they were struggling to afford enough to eat.

“We’re cutting down on everything – food, bills, the basic needs. And I feel bad for my mum. She’s getting old but she’s having to do everything for me. My independence has completely gone,” he said.

“It’s just me and mum sitting in one room with no one else around us. I don’t get to sleep until around 2am or 3am. I just lie in bed thinking about what’s going to happen with my life.”

Mr Samson, who worked as a manager in McDonald’s in Birmingham before he was deported, said he was struggling to maintain a close relationship with his siblings over the phone.

“You can’t maintain the relationship over the phone. It’s a big gap now. We haven’t seen each other in so long,” he added.

Along with his siblings, Mr Samson was a regular churchgoer in Hall Green, Birmingham, where he spent more than 10 years as an active member of the Christian community.

Revered Lorraine Shorten, who has known Mr Samson for more than two years and is pastor at his church in Birmingham, previously told The Independent he was a “well-thought of” member of the community

“It’s shameful – we are a Christian country yet we can’t help him. It’s terrifying to send him back there with the situation for Christians in Pakistan ... This is so extremely short-sighted by the Home Office,” she added.

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

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