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Afghan refugee arrested in Austrian convent saved from deportation

(Updated: December 10 11:20 CEST)

Katholisch.de is reporting Tuesday morning that the Afghan refugee arrested on the night of 7-8 December has been saved from deportation for the time being after invention from the authorities.

He has now been released from police custody.

(Original story: December 10 9:00 CEST)

Police have stormed an Austrian convent to arrest and deport an Afghan refugee living there since 2017.

Driving the news

Austrian Catholic news agency Kathpress reported Monday on the capture of 22-year-old Ziaulrahman Zaland, or ‘Zia’, in the convent of the Franciscan nuns in Langenlois, in the north-east of the country.

Zia had been resident in Langenlois since 2015 after fleeing from the Taliban.

From 2017, he had been living in a guest room in the abbey’s cloister area, attending at the same time a vocational school run by the nuns of the religious house.

On the night of December 7, however, Zia was detained by a group of seven police officers acting on a warrant from the Austrian Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum (BFA).

The Afghan man was taken to a detention centre and was expected to be deported Monday night.

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Go deeper

In the aftermath of the raid, the Langenlois sisters denounced the police violation of their consecrated space, and criticised the “breach of trust” on the part of the authorities towards a person seeking asylum.

The nuns sent a letter Sunday to Austrian authorities, including President Alexander van der Bellen, to stop the “wanton” deportation of Zia, whom the sisters said was “optimally integrated” in Austria.

In the letter, which was also signed by the mayor and deputy mayor of Langenlois as well as by the local refugee aid agency, the sisters argued that the Zia should be allowed to stay in the country.

The man should be granted at least a temporary stay on his deportation, the nuns said, at least until Parliament considers Wednesday measures affecting refugees in education or training.

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Zia must be allowed to finish his training as an office clerk, from which he was due to graduate in June 2020, the nuns insisted.

What’s next

Students from the training college of the Langenlois sisters organised a demonstration and vigil for Zia on Monday, in a gesture of solidarity for their colleague that the nuns described as “touching”.

However, since Zia’s application for asylum has been denied in the final instance, there seems to be little hope for the man now, who reportedly is already heading back to Afghanistan.

Christian Konrad and Ferry Maier, of the Alliance ‘Menschen Würde Österreich’ (“People Dignity Austria”), cited the case of Zia Monday to call on Austrian politicians “to suspend deportations of fully integrated people for the time being” and to develop an asylum policy “worthy of the name”.

Konrad and Maier urged politicians to “put a stop to the populism” and allow migrants who work or study, speak German and are integrated into the community to stay permanently in the country.

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