Abdul Turay: Why I didn't help Omar out (37)
Omar is an Afghan who worked for the Estonian Army. When he concluded his work, he claimed asylum, wishing to come to Estonia. Last week it was discovered that he is studying in India, in not too good conditions and still seeking assistance from individual Estonians. Abdul Turay writes why he turned down Omar's request.
A few months ago I got a Facebook message from Omar. I have never met him or been in touch with him before. I will write it out verbatim.
“Hello Sir , how are you ? wish your fine i am Omar from Afghanistan now i am in india i am student and studying here . i was the interpreter of Estonian army . At the moment i am in very bad Situation. I am alone and even don't have money for my food . kindly request for you to help me as much as you can . i think you got asylum back in Estonia , hope every thing is going welll with you .” (sic)
I gave a brief response doubting his identity.
Thereafter the missives kept coming.
“Your small brother need your help”(sic)
“Sir i am writing to you with drop of my eyes . i am crying.”(sic)
“i am in bad Situation. Sir , give me your hand take me out from this poverty.” (sic)
“i am alone and belong to very poor family.”(sic)
On and on it went. After each missive, he would leave bank account details.
At first I thought that it was probably some con-artist pretending to be Omar. But I noticed he had many of the same Facebook friends as myself. Good people, humanitarians. I assumed I was probably not the only person he was writing to, asking for financial assistance.
From the tone of the letters it is clear that he felt that he would have a kinship with me. People see what they want to see – my name is Middle Eastern, so in his mind I must BE Middle Eastern.
He must have learned something about me, ...but not much. “I think you got asylum back in Estonia,” he wrote.
Omar was not putting himself in a good light, begging money off a total stranger, then not making any effort to research that stranger's background. It's easy enough to do on the Internet nowadays.
Assuming this Omar is who he says he is and assuming his situation is bad as he says it is, how can you help someone like this?
I was never going to send him money, it will eventually run out and he will be needing more. I can't find him a job from the other side of the world.
I am suspicious of anybody who doesn't put their picture on their Facebook profile. Besides, if he has no money how can he afford to use the Internet?
Personally, I don't judge Omar because I don't know enough about him, but I understand the view that his behavior makes him sound like a pathetic, whiny, loser. And given the strong opinions Estonians have about people from his part of the world, that is not good.
What I can say with conviction is that he was never a genuine refugee. If he was in need of international protection, how is it that he was able to leave his own country with no difficulty as a student to live in India?
I used to do work which was related to asylum seekers, and I can tell you that contrary to what the readers may believe, it is much harder to get out of war-torn countries, than stable ones.
Afghanistan has very strict border controls at airports and other ports. If the authorities are interested in a person, that person won't be able to leave the country on a student visa.
Omar was a good news story but that's all it is. I decided to keep it confidential until it was out in the public.
There is nothing terribly profound about Omar story, except to say that like the vast majority of asylum seekers, he was never a genuine refugee.