Urgent Plea for Educational Support: Asylum Seeker Families in Thailand Seek Help


London: (By Juliet Chowdhry and Hannah Chowdhry) In a heart-wrenching appeal, the representatives of beleaguered asylum seeker families in Thailand have raised urgent concerns regarding the education of their children.

Amidst their struggles and challenges, these families are calling upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other Human Rights Organizations worldwide for immediate intervention.

Having met with numerous asylum-seeking families in Thailand, our dedicated representative has heard firsthand accounts of their plight. Families who have been living in Thailand for periods ranging from 5 to 10 years have come forward to express their worries about their children’s education. The absence of a UNHCR-sponsored school catering to the educational needs of these vulnerable children, coupled with exorbitant fees at private institutions, has left these families in a dire situation.

Among the affected families, Hina Sardar (35 yrs) and Sardar Masih (40 yrs) stand as a poignant example. For the past 8 years, this couple, along with their three children Elisha (13 yrs), Zoya (12 yrs), and son Diam (8 yrs), have navigated the challenges of asylum-seeking in Thailand. Unfortunately, their UNHCR file has been closed, leaving them without the support they desperately need. Hina Sardar shared her distress, stating, “Private education for our children is something we cannot imagine here in Thailand, where we are struggling hard to make ends meet.”

Tragically, the files of many Christian asylum seekers in Thailand have also been closed by UNHCR. Stranded in Thailand with no viable option to return to Pakistan due to safety concerns, these families lack the financial means or a private sponsor to leave the country. Even in cases where families are fortunate enough to secure sponsorship, the closure of their UNHCR files presents an insurmountable barrier to immigration. The rejection of their cases has plunged them into a harrowing predicament.

Currently, approximately 150 Pak-Christian asylum seekers find themselves in Thailand, each grappling with their own challenges. The need for a dedicated school to cater to the educational needs of the children within these beleaguered Christian families has reached a critical juncture. Without access to education, these children face a bleak future, and the families’ hopes for a better life hang in the balance.

The families and advocates implore UNHCR, as well as international Human Rights Organizations, to step in and address this urgent issue. Immediate action is needed to establish a school that can provide quality education to these vulnerable children, offering them a chance at a brighter future. It is crucial for the international community to unite in support of these families, ensuring that their rights are upheld and their aspirations for education are fulfilled.

British Asian Christian Association has previously managed several asylum seeker schools in Thailand. These schools were set up in makeshift fashion, utilizing rooms within the condominiums where these communities reside. These educational initiatives were operated by a skilled pool of teachers from within these communities. Regrettably, these previous school projects were forced to close due to interventions from the Royal Thai Police and Immigration teams.  

Recognizing the urgent plea from a community that has witnessed their children endure years without proper educational facilities, we are prepared to take steps to reestablish a school at this location. To achieve this, we require a minimum of £10,000 to cover essential startup expenses. These funds will encompass costs for acquiring furniture, renting rooms, compensating teachers, and procuring necessary educational equipment and materials.

In addition to the initial startup costs, ongoing funding will be necessary to sustain the school’s operations. A monthly budget of £1000 will be required for this purpose. We invite those who are inclined to assist in this endeavor to contribute by making a donation via the provided link.

Furthermore, we kindly appeal for support in the form of regular monthly grants of £25, aimed at aiding struggling families within the community.

Your contribution will make a profound difference in the lives of these families and the education of their children. Your generosity will be a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. Together, we can work towards uplifting this community and ensuring that every child’s right to education is upheld.

There are several thousand Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand, a significant portion of whom possess either UNHCR registration as official asylum seekers or refugee status. However, they are treated as illegal immigrants, pushing them into working under the table for meager wages under harsh and unsafe conditions. Tragically, last year, a Pakistani Christian father, Babar Ishaq, lost his life due to a fall from a high ladder. Shockingly, he received no compensation for his death, and the business responsible for his employment faced no consequences. Babar Ishaq left behind a large family, including a child with severe mental impairment – a family that we at the British Asian Christian Association (BACA) support (click here).

The core issue lies in the Royal Thai Government’s refusal to ratify international conventions pertaining to asylum seekers. Furthermore, the Thai Government firmly opposes providing a hospitable environment for refugees and asylum seekers. They employ regular arrests, a system of fines, and harsh conditions within their Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) to deliberately make life incredibly challenging for those seeking refuge and safety within their borders.

BACA collaborated with the BBC to create a hidden documentary within the Bangkok IDC. One of our team members covertly accompanied a BBC film crew to Bangkok (click here for details about the documentary) to expose the plight faced by the asylum-seeking community there. This link (here) leads to a report co-written by BACA and BBC’s Chris Rogers, featuring a brief video showcasing one of our schools for asylum seekers.

We’ve assisted certain refugee families in paying their overstay fines before their departure from Thailand to settle in Australia or Canada. Our aim is to ensure a smooth transition for these beleaguered Pakistani Christians. Notably, one family we recently supported was directly impacted by the Gojra attack in 2009, which played a pivotal role in the establishment of our charity.

Some newer supporters might not be familiar with our groundbreaking efforts that led to asylum opportunities for Pakistani Christians in Australia and Canada. We share this historic post, narrating how BACA successfully persuaded the Australian government to allocate an annual quota of 100 Pakistani Christians under their sponsored asylum program (click here for the post).

The fruits of our labor are now evident as these quotas are being fulfilled. In March 2022, two families, including those of Charles Bhatti and Amjad Saleem, left Thailand for Australia. We extend our best wishes to them. Additionally, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board continues to rely on reports from our group to assess Pak-Christians, after our endeavors resulted in Special Immigration status for this diaspora. Further details can be found (here).  This has meant hundreds of Pak-Christians have attained asylum successfully there since 2013.

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