On October 9, in the early hours Thai authorities conducted raids and detained about 100 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok. The crackdown against visa over stayers has been stepped up. Pakistani Christians detained by the immigration authorities include women and children also.
It has been learnt that some of the detainees include those who have been granted refugee status by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee status protects a person from being detained in connection to visa-related matters.
After a few hours, the immigration authorities carried out another raid in District of Min Buri, and hooked another five Pakistani Christian families- about 20 men, women and children in total. They were taken to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Bangkok, which is infamous for the inhumane conditions for the detainees.
UCA News quoted a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker saying: “We’re very scared. The situation is very tense. The kids are especially suffering.” In the face of stepped up crackdown, many Pakistani Christian families have left their rented apartments and have moved to safer places. A Pakistani Christian who has given shelter to another Pakistani Christian family said: “We’re staying indoors and keeping quiet……. “My heart is racing. I tell my kids to stay calm, but I can barely stay calm myself.”
Another Pakistani Christian who has taken refuge in a local church said: “We need a safe haven and this is the only one we can think of. We might have to stay here for several days.” According to an estimate there are around 2,500 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand. “We’re refugees and can’t go back to Pakistan,” a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker told UCA News.
The recent raids are result of zero tolerance policy of newly appointed head of Thai Immigration Bureau. Pakistani Christians are not the only ones facing danger of detention but visa over stayers from several countries from Middle East, Africa and Asia. On October 5, 369 foreigners were detained on various visa related offences.