This week Jubilee Campaign is highlighting cases of religious persecution and discrimination in Pakistan in light of World Day of Social Justice on February 20th.
Pakistani Christians in Thailand
This past week we discussed multiple accounts of persecution and discrimination of Christians in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the stories we shared are only a very small fraction of the incidents that have occurred over the years. While some incidents of persecution are noticed by NGO’s or Christian media, the reality is that the majority of incidents go unreported. However, incidents of persecution or the fear of persecution has caused thousands of Pakistani Christians to flee the country. In the story we shared this week of Talib Masih, we mentioned that he fled to Thailand.
Some estimate the number of Pakistani Christians seeking refuge in Bangkok, Thailand to be nearly 10,000. Bangkok has been the refuge of choice for many because of its UNHCR office and the UNHCR’s ability to resettle refugees to Western nations.
Unfortunately, the high influx of refugees has caused the understaffed UNHCR office to become backlogged. Refugees wait approximately 2 years for their Refugee Settlement Determination (RSD) interview. However, because the refugees use tourist visas to enter Thailand, their presence in Thailand is only legal for a short amount of time, usually only 30 days. The long wait for an interview has caused refugees to overstay their visa, thus making them vulnerable to arrest.
Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and therefore does not provide protection to refugees. If arrested, refugees are subject to unhygienic conditions in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) and face high bail amounts. While in Thailand, refugees are forbidden from work, education, and health care, forcing refugees to rely on ministries, NGOs, and churches for even the most basic needs.
In addition to these obstacles, the UNHCR has been rejecting a high proportion of Christian Pakistani cases. Once rejected, the refugee may only appeal it once. If rejected again, they have to either decide to illegally stay in Thailand, or return to Pakistan where they could be risking their life. Jubilee Campaign is currently working to make sure that all the cases of Pakistani Christians are fairly evaluated by the UNHCR to ensure that legitimate claims are being recognized.
Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department. To learn more about the resolution, click here.
In honor of World Day of Social Justice, and on behalf of Asia Bibi and all the other victims of blasphemy, we urge you to contact your Representative and ask them to support H.Res. 290. Unsure who your representative is? Find out here!
We will also be sending a petition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on World Day of Social Justice asking him to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern. Please sign the petition and spread the word!
Also, if you are interested in helping Christian Pakistani refugees in Thailand, please consider making a donation. Jubilee Campaign currently supports an organization in Bangkok that provides refugee families with food and housing support.