Christians fleeing Pakistan due to persecution often find a difficult road ahead of them. According to an undercover report by the BBC, hundreds of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand are routinely rounded up by Thai police and placed in inhuman detention centers. All this in spite of the fact that these Pakistani Christians are registered with the UNHCR. Unfortunately, this is a common story around South Asia where Pakistani Christians are also fleeing to Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Is there any place these persecuted Christians can flee to and find safety?
5/31/2016 Pakistan (The Daily Times) – Chris Rogers, an investigative journalist of the BBC, and Wilson Chaudhry of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), visited Thailand undercover, and prepared a documentary about the plight of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand. In this BBC documentary, problems and difficulties people face dealing with the UNHCR and Thai immigration authorities were highlighted to a global audience. Several thousand Christian men, women, and children have been stranded in that tourist-friendly country that has a glorious tradition of welcoming visitors. For asylum-seekers, Thailand is not a safe haven because it is not a signatory of the Geneva Convention 1951 of Human Rights to welcome and accommodate refugees/asylum seekers. But the UNCHR with a separate agreement has established its offices to register asylum seekers, and pass them on to different countries through a gateway scheme.
Due to an increasing wave of migrants throughout the world, Thailand is also under stress. The present military Thai government is not allowing migrants to stay for longer than the legal permission of six-month visitor’s visa. From March 2016 a national crackdown on all immigrants who do not possess valid visas was started. The UNHCR issues a certificate of registration to asylum seekers that are not accepted by the Thai government. However, now those certificates have been replaced by an identification card. After exhausting visit-visa term of six months, despite possessing the UNHCR Asylum Certificates/ID cards, these people are considered illegal. Due to backlog and limited staff at the UNCHR, it is almost impossible to process asylum applications within six month’s scheduled time. Applicants have to wait for years for an interview.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work to earn to feed themselves. Once their visa-limit is over, their lives become hell in Thailand. From time to time, these asylum seekers are arrested, and sent to the International Detention Centre (IDC), which is one of the worst prisons in the world. In very small spaces, hundreds of people are forced to live in inhumane conditions. Many people cannot survive this situation and they are hit by serious diseases. The way they are sometimes treated in Thailand is against humanity, but Pakistani Christians still take the incredible risk of migrating to Thailand. The British MPs and Americans Congressmen are aware of this situation, and from time to time they raise their voice. But as Thailand has no obligation to deal with this kind of issues, global authorities do not pay much attention either.
International community should take notice of the plight of Christian Pakistani asylum seekers in Thailand, as they are not economic migrants. They are forced to migrate because of certain issues, and there are always reasons for fleeing their homeland. Are not incidents of Gojra lynching of Christians, Peshawar church bombing, suicide attacks in Yahounabad, and Gulshan-e-Iqbal carnage sufficient to understand the vulnerability of Christians in Pakistan? Despite that most of them don’t even think of leaving their beloved homeland, but those who dream of a safer life outside Pakistan should not be insulted and embarrassed by international community as is the case in in Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and even some western countries.