Pakistani Christians fleeing Muslim persecution are dying in Thai migrant camps
Pakistani Christians are dying in Thailand’s immigration center due to the deplorable conditions inside. Detainees are even denied treatment and medication for serious medical conditions such as heart or kidney problems and high blood pressure, which has led to several deaths.
The Thai authorities are cracking down on Pakistani Christians who have overstayed their visas. “Pakistani Christian asylum seekers seized in such raids are taken either to the Immigrant Detention Centre or the Central Criminal Jail, and conditions in both are horrific with massive overcrowding, pitifully poor nutrition and the resultant disease epidemics,” explained Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of British Pakistani Christians Association (BPCA). “In these latest raids on 20 December at least 80 percent of the detainees were women and girls, along with babies and other children” he added. The Thailand government demands £1,000 ($1,442.50) for each prisoner and BPCA is trying to raise funds to release the Christians.
Many Pakistani Christians fled to Thailand to escape persecution but they face difficulties as soon as they reach the Thai border, often having to pay a bribe to border guards in order to be allowed to pass through. “We were refused twice and they would not let us pass but on the third time we finally paid,”said one refugee Raymond John, who paid $1,100. Unable to claim asylum when they enter the country, these Pakistani Christians face further hardships in Thailand.
Human rights organizations have criticised the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) for not declaring Pakistani Christians to be genuine refugees, although they qualify for such status according to UNCHR’s own definition of “refugee”. Those who are granted official refugee status by UNCHR are given protective status from arrest and deportation until their request for asylum is adjudicated. ”According to a mandate, the refugee status of these people has to be determined in 90 days, , but in reality it can take four to five years,” stated the head of the Farrukh Saif Foundation . “If a minor, a child, cannot go to school for four to five years, what is his future? A whole generation of Pakistani Christians in Bangkok is being destroyed”.UNCHR insists everything is being done to speed up the process but many Pakistanis complain about the long delays, stating that some have had to wait three years just to get an interview.
However, even if UNCHR were to declare that they were “genuine refugees”, the Thai government would still not grant them asylum status. Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and does not have a formal national asylum framework so Pakistani Christians are treated as illegal immigrants. This means that they are unable to work. UNCHR is supposed to provide daily aid to the refugees but it can take years to get refugee status and in the meantime they suffer great hardship, trying to survive on the money they brought with them. “The poor can’t and don’t escape but the middle and upper classes flee to Thailand,” said Chowdhry adding that many were doctors, lawyers, professors and politicians in Pakistan.