Date: March 1, 2016
This past week, Chris Rogers, a BBC reporter, informed the world of his findings while going undercover in Thailand to expose how the country treats asylum seekers. Jubilee Campaign was happy to provide the BBC our report we published last year to help their investigation. Pakistani Christians, who come to Thailand fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, make up the second largest asylum seeking group in Thailand. Because Thailand is not a signatory to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, asylum seekers in Thailand are subject to arrest and unhygienic conditions in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). Though most are registered with the UNHCR office, which in the past had offered protection from arrest, Thai authorities disregard their registration and arrest them anyway, often separating families and detaining the asylum seekers for an indefinite amount of time.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated Pakistan as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Although the United States Department of State has not shared in this designation, Pakistan has proved to have one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom.
Pakistan's blasphemy law tends to be one of the main reasons many Christians leave Pakistan. Christians are often arbitrarily accused of defiling Islam's holy book, the Koran, or insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Most recently, a Christian couple was sentenced to death after they were found guilty for sending a text message that "blasphemed" against the Prophet Muhammad. The couple insist that their phone had been stolen, and that they did not send the message. There is no evidence that has linked the couple to the text messages, but the sentence has remained.
Other asylum seekers have fled Pakistan due to the threat of suicide bombers targeting churches. Individuals and families are also targeted by extremists, threatening to kill them unless they convert to Islam.
These dangerous conditions have forced Christians to seek out a refuge. Asylum seekers that go to Bangkok hope to be resettled in the West; however, they are subject to further persecution while they await resettlement. In recent months, the Thai authorities have arrested hundreds of Pakistani Christians. Unfortunately, two have passed away while detained because of the poor conditions of the facilities.
We urge you to write to your Thai embassy and ask for the immediate release of all the Christian Pakistani asylum seekers. In addition, the Thai authorities should be urged to stop arresting those registered with the UNHCR while they await their resettlement appointments. The contact website for the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, DC is: http://thaiembdc.org/contact/
To watch the BBC video in which Jubilee Campaign is mentioned, visit: https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33. The password to view the video is: Pakistan