Problems of Christian Asylum seekers in Thailand. By Riaz Anjum Advocate

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I being chairman of (PCM),representative of (HRC) and (CLAP) visited Thailand from June 17 to June 20.I was assigned responsibility to observe circumstances of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand, to know their problems and to collect information regarding role of UNHCR, local church , clergy and other helping hands for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand. My stay was about 4 days in Bangkok; I met Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and local church over there. Following is the conclusion of my observation and information.
Like hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers of mainly from Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who are hundreds in number have sought for asylum. Thailand has not signed United Nations convention 1951 regarding the status of asylum seekers and refugees, therefore all refugees and asylum seekers including Pakistani Christians are considered illegal immigrant in Thailand, therefore like others Pakistani Christian asylum seekers have to face many problems in Thailand.
Their illegal situation prevents them working .The livelihood of asylum seekers is very difficult in Thailand as asylum seekers have to pay a lot of money to support themselves while UNHCR follows up their cases and finally accept them as refugees. Pakistani Christian asylum seekers for not being so rich faces lot of financial problems. sometimes there is waiting period of 6 month to one year for recognition as refugee. Even after being recognized as refugee, they have to wait for resettlement process to be recognized as legal citizens in different countries where they are able to work in these countries. This time period may extend to one to two years. During all the time period asylum seekers including Pakistani Christians have to use their own money for their lodgings and security deposits except a little aid by Local Church to Christian refugees. Sometimes refugees feel unsafe due to police raids and then they have to change their lodging on rent and pay another security deposit. Due to these circumstances and problems Pakistani Christian asylum seekers have been facing lot of financial problems and now they are expecting financial assistance for welfare organization, local church. I Pakistani Christian asylum seekers deserves immediate attention of Christian welfare organizations. Asylum seekers also face problem involving their identity and whereabouts. If a picture or information relating to refugee is released, it can disclose the location and jeopardize the security that a asylum seeker and refugee seeks.
In Thailand asylum seekers face continuous risks of arrest, detention and forced return to their homelands where they are already at risk. Some of Christian asylum seekers have physical and psychological health problems resulting from trauma that they have experienced in their homeland, compounded by their financial problems and difficult living in Thailand. It is too difficult for them to meet the needs of medication.
Thailand government has failed to establish a procedure for determining refugee status therefore refugees and asylum seekers are prosecuted and detained under Thailand law (for illegal immigrants)
t is very much appreciable and encouraging that almost no Pakistani Christian asylum seeker has been refused yet and many Pakistani Christian asylum seekers have been resettled in Australia, Europe and USA.
I think UNHCR should take undertaking from Thai government for welfare organizations to work freely. Local church should play a active role and increase financial aid for Christian asylum seekers. UNHCR should increase pace of process for giving refugee status and resettlement process. It would be a relief for asylum seekers if UNHCR and Thai government acts upon the mentioned suggestions.

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