Concern rises for 11/YO Pak-Christian child detained after latest Thai national asylum crackdown

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LONDON: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) Royal Thai Police have begun  the first national crackdown on illegal immigrants since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown (click here).

 

During one raid Police arrested 6 Pak-Christian Asylum Seekers including a girl aged 11. 

 

The mother of the 11 year old has reached out to British Asian Christian Association, to seek help with removal of her child from the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre.

 

Frightened asylum seekers cease black-market work and isolate themselves in grubby undersized condos, suffering even harder economic poverty as they avoid detection by authorities.

 

The mother of the 11 year old has reached out to British Asian Christian Association, to seek help with removal of her child from the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre.

 

On December 1st the Royal Thai Immigration Police opened a series of coordinated raids to arrest travel visa over stayers in the country. The raids were announced earlier and are to be for a duration of 10 days from 1st December – 10th December.

 

Our representative in Thailand has informed us that December raids happen every year causing great fear in the Pak-Christian asylum seeker community.  He said:

 

“The news of immigration raids and arrests has terrified the Christian asylum seeker community.

 

“When police raids start most of us move our families to places that are safer and that have not been raided before – some even pay for expensive rooms in a hotel till the raids are over”

 

“Others just shut themselves into their apartments and pray to God to save them from arrest”

 

What is clear is that Christians registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) fear being arrested and placed into brutal IDC’s.

 

A raid at 8am on 5th December 2022 at Pruchunith Soi, Rat Burana, in the outskirts of Bangkok, however, has resulted in 6 Christians facing a terrible Christmas after being arrested.

 

In the early hours of  the morning multiple military and police vehicles reared up and surrounded a condo where they knew asylum seekers were residing.

 

Dozens of Police, Immigration officers and army personnel than indiscriminately knocked on every door in the condo and undertook a 3 hour search.   During this immigration raid the unfortunate six Christians lost their freedom.

 

Danish Masih (44 yrs), his wife Zubaida (42 yrs). daughters Mariam (18 yrs), and Magdaline (11 yrs), a family, who escaped persecution while living in Karachi suddenly found themselves in police cuffs and detained in a caged vehicle.  The family have been residing illegally in Bangkok since 2015 where they sought refuge in a western nation, disappointed to discover Thailand has not signed the UN Covenant for Asylum.  Danish Masih, had been working illegally in Pakistan while they awaited a decision by the UNHCR or various countries that offer sponsored asylum a process that can take many years.

 

Police have also arrested Nadeem Gill and Sam Afzal. Nadeem Gill fled Lahore for Bangkok with his wife and two children in 2014, after being accused of blasphemy, an allegation that can lead to death in Pakistan. He was the only family member at home at the time of the arrests in Bangkok and his dependents are currently without their patriarch. Sam Afzal moved to Bangkok in 2013.

 

All those arrested have been detained at the investigation centre of the Royal Immigration Police at Suan Plu. After police have concluded their investigation the detainees will be taken to a local court where they will be charged with illegally overstaying their visa and a judge will decide the amount of fine to be paid by each person.

 

Failing to pay the fine will result in one months incarceration at Bangkok Central Jail, where families will be split by gender, men will sleep naked and these families will be kept with the countries toughest criminals, including rapists, and murderers.

 

Paying the fine prevents the 1 month in the harsh Central Jail, instead detainees will be sent directly to a Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre, where over 200 will be crammed into cells designed for 40 people, medical treatment is limited and several Christians have died while detained (click here), no educational provision exists for minors, diseases spread and access to sunlight is near zero.  Some Pak-Christians choose to stay in the IDC for many years until their asylum is finally agreed through sponsorship or after UNHCR finally gets them through their backlog.

 

 

 

The fear of arrest and a death sentence in Pakistan under false charges of blasphemy is enough to keep them in the IDC. Moreover, any blasphemy prisoner in Pakistan is treated worse than serial killers, they are kept in isolation and end up having to cook their own food due to the numerous attempts to poison them and are allowed access to two hours sunlight every month.

 

One detainee we helped release from a Bangkok IDC, who later found asylum in Australia, said:

 

“Being kept in an IDC meant that I could still have visits from family members and friends.

 

“Lots of charities including BACA volunteers would meet me as often as they could.

 

“If I was arrested in Pakistan I would suffer torture.

 

“I would have endured painful beatings and abuse not just for the false allegation of blasphemy, but for simply being a Christian – we are anathema to many Muslims.

 

“The IDC was a very tough existence, I was hungry, cold, my illnesses ignored and sleeping among so many on a cramped floor was degrading and painful.

 

“I had left Pakistan to flee persecution and to gain freedom and equality, but here I was in a jail of sorts.

 

“I was a father separated from his wife and children, it tore me apart that I could not protect them, and they struggled to bring me food and encourage me.

 

“I cried and prayed in equal measure and God got me through

 

“Compared to what would have happened in Pakistan – it was a breeze.”

 

You can read about how Britain is culpable for a UNHCR decision to refusal to allow asylum in Thailand to two blasphemy victims, that were deported and arrested for blasphemy on their return (here).

 

Read more about Charles and has family (here) or watch the video below:

 

 

 

We are hoping to provide similar support to the six current individuals in the brutal Bangkok IDC, but we can only do this with your help.  Approximately 7000 baht (£164) are required to pay court fines to prevent each of these  Christians from being incarcerated in Bangkok Central Jail with hard criminals. A total of 42000 baht (£982) for all 6 Christians.

 

Once the fine is paid these detainees will be sent to the brutal Bangkok  IDC.  However, in 2015 the Royal Thai Government caved in to pressure from many charities including British Asian Christian Association and agreed to allow a bail bond to be paid, allowing asylum seeker detainees the chance to exit the IDC and have freedom from re-arrest. The cost of bail for each person is 50,000 Baht (£1170) a total of 300,000 baht (£7020) is required to free all six detainees.  If you have been moved by this account and would like to help us raise the necessary funds to release and protect these six Christians, please (click here).

 

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:

 

“Another Christmas has been destroyed for innocent Pak-Christians by the ruthless Royal Thai officials that have decided to purge their asylum seeker community in December again.

 

“These Christians are registered with the UN but have little protection from an organization that means well, but is toothless in a nation refusing to ratify global conventions on asylum.

 

“Beleaguered Christians have already lost their homes, wider family and everything they once had and knew.

 

“They risked entering into Thailand to flee the threat of death and persecution and face years of ignominious existence on the fringes of society.

 

“That a child is now facing incarceration in a jail full of rapists and murderers and then being detained in one of the most notorious detention centres in the world, indefinitely – is simply a travesty.  

 

“Thailand has ratified UN Conventions on protection of a child and mother and the UN Convention of Human Rights.

 

“How can they allow young Magdaline and her mother Zubaida to face such a terrible ordeal?

 

“The Royal Thai Government must allow freedom to this mother and child immediately or receive global criticsm and condemnation for breaching UN conventions they have endorsed.”

 

British Asian Christian Association, helped the BBC film a secret documentary at the Bangkok IDC when one of our team travelled secretly to Bangkok with a BBC film crew (click here). The team risked arrest to shed light on the situation faced by the  Pak-Christian asylum diaspora there.  This link (here) is a report that we helped BBC’s Chris Rogers write which also contains a short video of one of our schools for asylum seekers.  You can watch the full documentary here:

 

According to United Nations Refugee Agency, Thailand currently has 5000 asylum seekers in the country however it is believed that the real numbers will be much higher, all of them living under a constant fear of arrest and inhuman treatment in detention centres.  Pakistani Christians are by far the largest demographic group within that number.

 

Religious persecution in Pakistan has forced a very large number of Pakistani Christians to flee their homeland. Many of them have survived violent mob attacks, rape and then forced Islamic marriage and  arrests under the notorious Pakistani blasphemy laws. Christians make up 30% of extrajudicial-killings for blasphemy in Pakistan, yet their population is a mere 1.27% of the country’s make-up.  You can learn more (here)

 

Over the past two decades, Christians from all over Pakistan have escaped to Thailand seeking asylum. After fleeing their country, inevitably another chapter of hardship begins . They are made to wait for several years before the UNHCR approves their asylum case.  The process was expedited for a while thanks to a BACA report served to Peter Trotter former Senior Protection Officer at the Bangkok UNHCR (click here) which resulted in a 300,000 euro grant from the European Union (EU) and recruitment if additional staff. However, delays have grown again and some registered asylum seekers and refugees have waited over 7 years for a country for relocation.

 

Thailand does not grant asylum seekers or refugees the right to stay in the country even when registered with the UNHCR. The Royal Thai Government has not ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.

 

Asylum seekers in the country are treated as criminals by the Royal Thai Government. Work permits are not allowed not even to those bailed from the IDC or with UNHCR registration.  Christians work in the black-market for a pittance and are subjected to abuse, late pay or refusal to pay for hard labour.  Suffering families live in single room apartments. Often families of 7 or above share this one room with no privacy.

 

Many of them have been granted refugee status by the UNHCR yet many of them are still on asylum seekers status waiting for the opportunity to be accepted for settlement in Europe and other safer countries. However the Thai Government’s strict rules and regulations regarding refugees and asylum seekers in the territory have dashed their hopes as life of these asylum seekers is like living in a hell. The police deals with asylum seekers as if they have committed a serious crime for over staying

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

On demand of our readers, I have decided to release E-Book version of "Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" on website of PCP which can also be viewed on website of Pakistan Christian Congress www.pakistanchristiancongress.org . You can read chapter wise by clicking tab on left handside of PDF format of E-Book.

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