Thousands of Pakistani Christians are hiding in Thailand
Pakistani Christians have fled persecution by the thousands. If they are lucky enough to reach a country such as Thailand, however, their fortunes often do not improve. Many of them overstay their limited visas for fear of being returned to Pakistan, but that is only if they make to Thailand. Pakistanis flying to Thailand are often offloaded from the plane if their Christian religion is seen on their passport. Once they reach Thailand, things are no better. They are often out of work and on the run from Thai police. In a raid in Bangkok 35 Pakistani families were found living in a single room. These families are forced to stay in these apartments for long periods of time and keep their voices low to avoid detection. Although it is difficult to know how many have fled, roughly 11,500 Pakistani Christians have filed for refugee status with the UNHCR in recent years.
10/24/2016 Thailand (The Wire) – Anila Ilyas was wide awake, keeping an eye on the road outside from her fifth-floor apartment. All her belongings were packed and she was trying her best to stop her three teenage sons from falling asleep. When she saw a group of policemen arrive at her apartment building in Bangkok’s Pracha Uthit area, on that night in September 2015, she moved quickly but silently and evacuated from the back door along with her children.
Forty-five-year-old Anila was an Urdu teacher in a missionary school in Lahore before she left for Thailand in September 2013, joining thousands of Pakistani Christians living there illegally. They are constantly in hiding or on the run to escape arrest, detention and deportation. After arriving in Bangkok, Anila, too, had changed more than ten houses.
In the Pracha Uthit building, 35 Pakistani Christian families lived in single-room apartments – 66 people were arrested from there that night for overstaying in Thailand.
“We cannot go out because of the fear that the police may arrest us,” says Anila. (This is not her real name — which is being held back to protect her from arrest). “We force our children to keep their voices low to avoid detection by police. Neighbours make a complaint to the police if our children make a noise,” she says in a phone interview from her latest hiding place in Thailand.
Language barrier and illegal status together hamper these migrants from getting jobs. Anila works as a teacher to make ends meet while her husband has remained unemployed since their arrival in Bangkok.