SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Twenty-seven-year-old Nabeel Younis first arrived in Panama from Pakistan almost three years ago.
“He had come to Panama to participate in World Youth Day with the pope,” said Donna O’Brien, who befriended Younis.
O’Brien said Younis remained in Panama seeking asylum and a work visa without any luck.
For the past two years, O’Brien and her husband allowed him to say in their house in Panama near the Costa Rica border.
O’Brien said he came to be like a son to her.
“He was charming, creative, very intelligent,” recalled O’Brien. “Nabeel always saw North America, the U.S. and Canada as a promised land. He always felt there was no future for him in Pakistan.”
On November 9, Younis is said to have left for the U.S.-Mexico border; it took him just shy of a month to make the journey. He was traveling with six other men from Pakistan.
“The latest audio I have from him is five seconds and it said, ‘I’m going now, I’m going over now,'” O’Brien said.
She said Younis and the others were at the border between Mexicali, Mexico, and Calexico, Calif.
“He was in touch with this family in Pakistan every day, and throughout his journey, he was in touch with me almost every day,” O’Brien said.
But the messages and the calls have stopped, no one has heard from him in more than two weeks.
“There are seven Pakistani Christians who fled Pakistan looking for freedom and something happened to them, they disappeared,” said O’Brien. “The desperation of those who loved him, I can’t imagine how his parents in Pakistan are feeling.”
O’Brien told Border Report they have notified several federal agencies on both sides of the border, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, hoping someone knows something.
Nothing has turned up.
“We also called hospitals, morgues but there’s nothing.”
A private investigator from Oregon is now on the case questioning and talking to people in Calexico, where Younis stated he was jumping over the border fence.
But the investigator has also failed to uncover anything.
“I’ve not been able to get in touch with his family, he was their youngest,” O’Brien said.
As of now, it appears Younis’ fate is identical to more than 2,400 migrants who have disappeared along the U.S-Mexico border in recent years, according to the International Organization for Migration.
“These numbers are a sad reminder that the lack of options for safe and legal mobility pushes people onto more invisible and riskier paths, putting them at greater danger,” said Frank Laczko, director of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre.
“The loss of lives should never be normalized nor tolerated as an assumed risk of irregular migration,” Laczko said.