Creating a voice for Aisan Christians
Asylum is a controversial issue in the UK. A popular view is that migrants arrive looking for prosperity. That is a debate for another forum. The fact is that Pakistani Christians arrive on these shores because they face hardships, various forms of persecution – even death in their homeland. These men, women and children don’t come here to take advantage of the British benefits system. They are hardworking folk who have fled for their lives.
It is frustrating that UK Border Agencies have still not grasped this fact. The BACA works hard to support Pakistani Christians through human rights advocacy and our work has opened doors for persecuted Pakistani Christians to find asylum in a number of countries. Some 76 Pakistani Christians have been helped to find asylum in the UK in the past seven years thanks to the humanitarian work of the BACA. Our persecution reports have been described as influential within the ‘Right to stay’ documents given to successful applicants. The reports have been produced through the meticulous efforts of our former Chairman Wilson Chowdhry and Professor Desmond Fernandes – a genocide expert. These successes undermine the refusal of the UK Border Agencies to accept as widespread the persecution of minority religious groups in Pakistan.
Nathaniel Lewis, a former Lead BACA Researcher and Wilson Chowdhry, also produced reports on this asylum issue which have been used by the Canadian Immigration and Asylum Board (CIAB) to define policies towards asylum seekers from Pakistan. The reports are listed as sources within the CIAB’s current online policy and subsequent reforms of the previous policies have saved lives. Rimsha Masih, a high-profile victim of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, as an example, was allowed immediate asylum status upon application.
We also led the political moves in the Netherlands to review official procedures for accepting Pakistani Christians seeking escape from danger. Dutch Parliamentarians twice met with Professor Desmond Fernandes and Wilson Chowdhry to discuss options for giving assistance to Pakistani Christians. The outcome of those meetings were several fervent parliamentary debates, calling for a High-risk status to be given to Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in the Netherlands. This was ratified in December 2013.
Our report writing led by Desmond Fernandes and Wilson Chowdhry also led to a grant of 300,000 Euros to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok. This resulted in the employment of 8 new staff and reduced waiting times for assessment from 6 years to just under two years for Pak-Christian and over asylum seekers. We were thanked personally by Senior Protection Officer Peter Trotter in June 2016.
In January 2017, The UK Home Office after several meetings with British Asian Christian Association, altered their training practice and guidance for interviewers of asylum seekers and removed bible trivia from the scope of Questions.