Christians Fleeing Pakistan Are Stuck in Thailand [Excerpts]
A group of members of Britain’s Parliament on 24 Feb. urged their government to adopt a harsher official assessment of Pakistan’s treatment of Christians. The reason? The MPs say United Nations officials in Thailand, where thousands of Pakistani Christians have sought asylum in recent years, are not sufficiently concerned that Christians “face a real risk of persecution” if returned to their home country.
As a result, the MPs say, the already overwhelmed UN bureaucracy is prolonging the asylum process and too casually deporting Christians -- using Britain’s current, less-than urgent assessment of Pakistan as partial justification. Meanwhile, Christians languish for years in jobless isolation, dependent on charity and trying to avoid arrest on charges of illegal immigration. And in Thailand, every asylum seeker, once their brief tourist visa expires, is guilty of illegal immigration: the country has never signed international agreements concerning refugees.
Who are these MPs and what does their report say? They are members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. AAPGs are unofficial advisory bodies to Parliament, devoted to various topics, and open to MPs from all political parties in both houses of Parliament.
This particular report was prompted by a September 2015 visit to Thailand by Lord David Alton, a member of the upper house and a long-time human-rights campaigner. He had received information about Pakistani Christians crowded into Bangkok’s detention centres, despite the fact that they had UN certificates indicating their asylum case was under review. International law forbids detaining, on immigration grounds, anyone who has a certificate. The bulk of the report’s 103 pages is devoted to evidence documenting how Pakistan is a dangerous place for religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadis, Sikhs, Jews and others.
During his investigation in Thailand, Alton encountered a “senior official” of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees whose staff was both swamped with thousands of asylum applications and without much reason to act with urgency:
“[I]t was made clear to Lord Alton that this individual held a negative opinion towards the Christian asylum seekers and, by referencing the [UK] Home Office Country Guidance on Pakistani Christians and Christian Converts, did not believe them to have been at a ‘real risk of persecution’ for their faith in Pakistan. Deporting them was not seen as a process dangerous to the Christian asylum seekers.”
The report asks Parliament to instruct the Home Office to update its assessment of Pakistan, which Alton said the UNHCR in Thailand studies closely to guide its policy on Christian refugees. It also is used by the UK immigration office to help determine asylum applications from Pakistanis in the UK.
“The official line of the UK Government is that there is no persecution, the reality is the opposite of that and our report dispenses with that illusion,” Alton said in a 23 Feb. release.
(“Christians Fleeing Pakistan are Stuck in Thailand,” Christian Headlines, World Watch Monitor, March 7, 2016).