Pakistani drama highlights green card issues

A police case between an employer and his former employee has helped convey the pitfalls of working in Denmark on the green card scheme

The police are looking into a case involving a Pakistani kiosk owner who is accused of holding a former Pakistani employee against his will while abusing and beating him.

Aftab Baig, a green card-holder from Karachi, alleges that on the evening of April 24 Mian Tariq Javed, the owner of the kiosk Baig worked at falsely accused him of stealing money before having others beat him and steal his laptop, phone and CPR card.

“They told me I had stolen this money and they beat me with a hockey stick. They were accusing me like that for four or five hours from 8pm to 1am, and they hit me and verbally abused my family,” Baig told The Copenhagen Post. “I told them to look at the camera recordings and when I asked for the camera footage they slapped me and told me not to make them look like fools.”

Baig, 27, said that he managed to escape after about five hours and called a friend to accompany him to the police, who are looking into the ordeal. The next day he went to the hospital, where his medical report states that he had suffered a contusion to his leg and had been “psychologically tormented.”

Baig said that he had worked at Kiosk & Spillehal on Enghavevej 14 in the Vesterbro district since February 5 and that Javed had not paid him his wages for a month and a half. Javed went on holiday to Pakistan and when he returned, he accused Baig of stealing over 10,000 kroner before allegedly detaining and beating him for hours.

Conversely, Javed claims to have also gone to the police over the ordeal, saying that he has a witness to back his version of events. He accuses Baig of theft and denies ever beating him or taking any of his possessions.

“No, no, Mr Baig is lying. I’ve been to the police myself because he stole over 10,000 kroner from the kiosk. No-one beat him or did anything to him,” Javed told The Copenhagen Post. “I was in Pakistan and when I returned I became aware that Aftab had stolen money from the shop. When I checked his bank account there was much money there and we also found chocolates from his bags which he had stolen from shop.”

When asked to provide a copy of his police report to The Copenhagen Post, as Baig had done, Javed said that he did not yet have one and the police "were sending it" to him. Baig also disputes Javed's claim about the bank account. Baig says that Javed forced him to show his bank account balance under duress and that the account didn't include any recent large deposits. 

To a neutral observer, the case could seem to be one man’s word against another’s. But it highlights some real issues that are connected with people coming to Denmark to find jobs.

Another green card pitfall

Baig's story is the latest testament to the shortcomings of the green card programme, which is scheduled to receive an overhaul this autumn. The programme has attracted criticism since 2010 when a study found that just 28 percent of green card-holders found work within their field and 43 percent ended up taking unskilled jobs.

Baig, who holds a bachelor's degree in software development from Dahria University in Pakistan and a master's degree in computer science at Mälardalen University in Västerås, Sweden, has found it difficult to find a job since he moved to Copenhagen six months ago. This forced him to look for unskilled jobs in order to sustain himself.

“It is because all lot of companies are outsourcing work in my field here and they are mostly looking for different requirements and more experienced workers, which is one reason why it is difficult to find a job here,” Baig said. “I know several other people who are in the same situation.”

On Sunday, the green card-holder advocacy group Danish Green Card Association (DGCA), created a poll on its Facebook page where users could mention names of trouble-making employers in order to alert the authorities to the issue. As of today, over 30 people had taken part.

“They come here searching for professional jobs but end up taking part-time jobs while searching to make some money. Many of them are not aware of the laws here and this lack of information is abused,” DGCA's president, Mohammad Faisal, told The Copenhagen Post.

Faisal explained that many green card-holders arriving in Denmark have little or no networks here and are ill-advised on the rights they enjoy as employees, something that dubious employers prey upon.

“A common practise from employers is to not provide a contract until after a few months and begin paying low wages in the meantime,” Faisal said. “We advise people not to take jobs from these kinds of places because they end up working 12-hour shifts and have no time to search for jobs related to their professional fields.”

Around 7,000 green cards have been handed out since the programme started in 2008, with the majority arriving from countries such as Pakistan, India, China, Iran and Bangladesh.

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