11 June 2007

Greetings from the Land of Misfit Toys

PK periodically attends a Bible study I lead at Unitec-Waitakere, where I serve as a chaplain. He let me know today that he won’t be returning next term to complete his studies, even though he only has one term remaining to receive his diploma in English (the equivalent of an A.A. degree). He has a lot going right now. His family recently purchased an Iranian restaurant and they are going to need each and every one of them to run it. Along with his brother’s family, PK, his wife and two teenaged children will be pitching in.

After five years living here, PK and his family received their New Zealand passports today, which has more than pragmatic meaning to them. For, you see, they have been without legitimate passports for the past seven years. Seven years ago, back home in Iran, PK transferred all his legal possessions to his younger brother, bought fake passports for his entire family and fled to Thailand. Then to Malaysia, where they had to purchase another set of fake passports and flee to Japan. Upon entering Japan, with fake Greek passports, the immigration officer thought it would be a good time to practice his Greek. Ironic, huh? They probably got the lone Greek-speaking immigration officer in Japan. Next stop: three days in jail for the whole family!

According to PK, the Japanese officials were sympathetic and understanding, offered him the possibility to stay on in Japan, but PK had his heart set on getting to New Zealand. They were then deported back to Malaysia. Some time later, after acquiring another set of fake passports, they ended up in South Africa, where they made plans to get to New Zealand.

After their flight to New Zealand was in the air, they flushed their fake passports down the toilet on the plane (A bit of good advice they received from people who know about these things). After departing the plane, waiting in the line for passport control, they simply told the immigration official the truth,
“We are political refugees from Iran. We don’t have passports or visas. We want to stay in New Zealand. We've spent $65,000 USD getting this far! Don’t send us away, please.”
Luckily for PK, the immigration officials believed their story. So five years and lots of hard work and hardship later, they are grateful citizens of New Zealand. PK told me he often longs for home and believes that someday he will be able to return to Iran, but for now, he will remain a loyal, hardworking citizen of New Zealand -- an Iranian-born Kiwi. As we shook hands and traded phone numbers, I felt compelled to say, “Salaam, PK, to you and to your family. May God give you peace of heart and mind.”

At Unitec-Waitakere, where I serve as a chaplain, there are many stories like PK’s. Our little study is primarily made up of religious and political refugees from Mayanmar and Iran and immigrants from Korea and China.

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