Royal Thai Government must alter stance on asylum seekers who are verging close to suicide

Whilst on his latest visit to Thailand, our Chairman Wilson Chowdhry initiated dialogue with The Royal Thai Government and expressed how urgent it was
to meet with them to discuss the current plight of Pakistani Christians residing there. A glimmer of hope has emerged as the Royal Thai Government
has agreed to review a BPCA report and  proposal for assistance for Pakistani Asylum seekers.  We will be working with our regular partners
to ensure that an offer is made that can serve great purpose for a much beleaguered community.

After a recent increase in the number of arrests and detainment of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok a very palpable depression has beset
the community, with many believed to be harbouring a desire for suicide.  

Those Pakistani Christians inside the brutal Immigration Detention Centres of Bangkok who have remained incarcerated for over a year are now increasingly
opting to voluntarily return to Pakistan, despite the threat to their life. Ultimately these victims feel there is no other option open to them, placed
between a rock and a hard place they are choosing a life of hiding in the shadows, over one behind bars.

Slow processing of asylum applications by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), who in Thailand have been hampered by the excessive
number of applications have meant stays inside the IDC have become intolerably delayed.  However, a recent article by some Pakistani Christian
groups accusing the UNHCR of arresting Pakistani Christians and threatening them with deportation is false and is a consequence of the growing frustration
in the community (click here).
 An inaccurate perception that the UNHCR is insousciant towards the plight of aslyum seekers has fuelled animosity

Having travelled to Sri Lanka and met with Igor Ivancic at the UNHCR HQ there, I noted their burden is much smaller.  The excellent work of the
UNHCR there illustrates how effective they can be when dealing with manageable numbers.

In our report and proposal some of the things we hope to highlight to the Royal Thai Government (RTG) that continual failure to care for mothers, children,
the elderly and those with a severe medical condition will lead to negative international publicity.  Already a  BBC documentary and various
reports by large main stream media groups across the globe have tarnished the reputation of Thailand.  Watch the full video (here)


Despite the belief that RTG maintains that they are a nation that is hospitable to those from other nations the BPCA is not totally convinced.  Areas
of concern such as entrance rates to tourist attraction sites that are able to charge foreigners over 100 times the price offered to local people despite
drawing UNESCO funding, undermines this claim.  Moreover Thailand’s existing policy towards gaining citizenship and the buying of property and
land in their nation is extremely restrictive for foreigners, creating a society that is overall insular and fearful of those from other nations –
unless of course an exchange of money occurs – a sad consequence of protectionist policy.

We have digressed from the main crux of this article but for a purpose.  Without explaining the above the cruelty and exploitation meted out towards
Pakistani Christian asylum seekers will not be fathomable to regular holiday-makers, whose limited contact with local people creates an impression
that is more egalitarian.  

We also intend to challenge the RTG to allow a quota of asylum seekers into their nation for resettlement especially those with qualifications and
professional experience.  We feel it is essential to broach the subject despite holding little hope as many of the existing asylum seekers in
Thailand would love to remain. If nothing else, we will seek a moratorium on the need for asylum seekers to return home for work or education visas,
and ask for flexibility for such applications to be made on Thai soil, as we believe many asylum seekers could live more stable lives by having legal
status to work in this fashion, preventing the large scale current exploitation. 

We will offer help by gaining sponsorship for such visa’s through our regular donors and partnerships with other charities. Moreover we will also offer
to provide an effective screening process for Pakistani Christians, and will work with the Pakistani Government and the network of churches in Pakistan
to ensure that extremists do not escape the net by fraudulently claiming conversion to Christianity. As one of the purported reasons for closing the
bail for asylum seekers incarcerated in the notorious Bangkok Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) was the need to stem terrorism and Pakistan is a
country of concern. Formerly the bail system allowed detainees freedom and two years exemption from rearrest after paying a fine of 50,000 baht – close
to £1000.

A raft of other matters will be included in the report/proposal including allowing UNHCR asylum seekers the option to work legally based on the fact
many have illegal work, but through legalizing the process the RTG can avoid the exploitation and gain through tax-payments.  We hope also to
become one of the charities that assists with payment of return flights for those stuck in the Immigration Detention Centre, Already we have made contact
with a senior officer at the IDC and are going through the process to be registered for such assistance.

Additionally, we seek a redemption from the necessity to pay visa overstay fines or requirement for involuntary stay in the Bangkok IDC’s for fortunate
asylum seekers who are granted Refugee status.  We recently raised the issue of an elderly man and his family who had to pay such fines after
the Thai Government refused to exempt the costs, which was viewed internationally as an avaricious motive.  Governments such as Sri Lanka have
agreed to waive such charges as they work closer with the UNHCR to make the lives of genuine asylum seekers and refugees more tenable.

There will be many more points raised with the Thai Government and we hope that through prayer and support we as a church body can help the asylum
seekers in Thailand, overcome the re-persecution that has left them totally demoralized.

A copy of our latest report was accepted by an officer at the Foreign Office of the Royal Thai Government and has been forwarded to Rathchaphorn Srisawong who has confirmed receipt.