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April 17 2014 5 17 /04 /April /2014 11:19

Basharat-Khokher---UNHCR-Entrance.jpg

Basharat Khokher 

 

Shamim Masih writes about religious minorities fleeing Pakistan. Shamim enlightens us that after fleeing Pakistan their refugee status often is a harrowing experience in itself.

 

I added a couple of explanatory links that was not a part of Shamim’s original submission. As I was looking for further information I found some information I found interesting. I am going to add these as a kind of addendum after Shamim’s financial support information.

 

JRH 4/17/14

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Threats – a Juvenile Prank or Serious Issue

 

By Shamim Masih

Sent: 4/15/2014 10:34 PM

 

ISLAMABAD: Religious persecution is not the only reason which compels Pakistanis to seek asylum elsewhere. Many a time, Pakistanis are forced to flee from their country because of their affiliation or lack of the same thoughts. I always wonder, was the country made only for single Muslim school of thought, who always attack on other faiths and threaten them to leave the country? No not, Pakistan is just as much a home to Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Shias and nobody has the right to expel anyone from their homeland. However, expulsion continues to take place at gun point and many a time over the lifeless bodies of loved ones. In fact we always think that misfortune always falls on other people and somehow we always stay away from such things until the violence strikes at our home.

 

I see many Pakistanis are seeking asylum in foreign countries and most of them instigate violence themselves and ignite the fury of others so that they can seek political or religious asylum in foreign countries. Many Christian families are living in UK, USA, Canada and other European countries. Seeking asylum is not easy and people who say that people do it deliberately should go to see, where many asylum seekers from different countries work day in and day out to feed their families. Seeing their faces will make you understand that what they have chosen has been the lesser of two evils as a last resort.

 

According to the sources, around 8000 families are seeking asylum in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Most of the asylum seekers who leave Pakistan in hopes of a better and safer future reached destitute or have meager funds which only last for a very small period of time. Most of them have to accept odd jobs and work at less than minimum wage until their resident status is approved by the immigration authorities. But I don’t see any positive response from the authorities or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Colombo Gazette reported that there are around 600 Pakistani Christians that are currently seeking asylum in Sri Lanka.

 

Many of the families have sold their houses and lost their job in hopes of a better and safer future, told Basharat Khokher after his visit to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. According to Basharat Khokhar some Human Right Champions are involved in human trafficking in the name of asylum in different countries. He condemns this act of Human Right Organization instead being supportive they are playing with their future. He said he met with many families there and now some of them are [desiring return] to rejoin their jobs, realizing the situation and bleak future.

 

He mentioned Pakistan European Christian Association – PECA and few others, I tried to call on the given number and have left messages but there is no response so far.

 

Nazir S Bhatti, President Pakistan Christian Congress – PCC have expressed his concern over the unprecedented delay shown by UNHCR offices in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand in processing applications for thousands of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers. The PCC chief appealed to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon that cases of the Pakistani Christians in these countries be considered on a priority bases for refugee status. He said they are living in miserable human conditions for years and have been waiting for their applications to be considered.

 

Refugees have no right to work legally, and it is difficult to find employment, even in the informal sector. Most urban refugees in Thailand live a precarious existence: unable to work, often unable to send their children to school, they are typically financially stressed, dependent on ad-hoc charity to survive, at risk of exploitation and constantly worried about being arrested and indefinitely detained. Most of them reached there with a genuine passport and tourist visa. They are usually exhausted most of their savings to come to Thailand. Once their tourist visas expire, under Thai law, they are considered illegal migrants. As a result, they are at constant risk of arrest and extort refugees and then release them, but arrest can also result in indefinite detention. Pakistani Christians often face harassment and discrimination in churches from the Thai community. Many were unaware how difficult conditions would be in Thailand before they came, often having been misled by “agents or people-smugglers.”

 

Even if refugees obtain refugee status, their chances of being resettled outside of Thailand are not high, and they face serious ongoing protection problems while they remain in Thailand.

 

I left their shops and homes with a very heavy heart, fervently praying that Pakistan would once again become a tolerant and progressive society where people can enjoy equal rights.

 

Be Blessed,

Shamim Masih

________________________________

Edited by John R. Houk

Brackets indicate editorial additions of the Editor.

 

© Shamim Masih

Special Correspondents

Daily Khabrian (PakBiz.com description) & Channel - 5

Human Rights Activist

 

Snapshot of Human Rights Activism from 2011

Christian Rights Activist
Freelance Journalist 

Secretary General of Information 

Pakistan Christian Congress

 

Shamim Masih’s Donate/Support info:

 

Editor: For Americans especially, I have discovered the best way to donate to Shamim Masih is via Western Union sending to a Western Union agent in Islamabad.

 

FOR USD TRANSFER.
Intermediary Bank:                         MASHREQ BANK, NEW YORK
Intermediary Bank SWIFT BIC:         MSHQUS33
Beneficiary Bank:                         JS BANK LIMITED
Beneficiary Bank SWIFT BIC:                 JSBLPKKA
Bank A/c # at Intermediary bank:         70008227
Title Of a/c                                Shamim Masih
Beneficiary Account Number:                 405527

Top of Form

IBAN #                                        pk80jsbl9530000000405227


FOR GBP TRANSFER.
Intermediary Bank:                         MASHREQ BANK, LONDON
Intermediary Bank SWIFT BIC:         MSHQGB2L
Beneficiary Bank:                         JS BANK LIMITED
Beneficiary Bank SWIFT BIC:                 JSBLPKKA
Bank A/c # at Intermediary bank:         00010855
Title Of a/c                                Shamim Masih
Beneficiary Account Number:                 405527
IBAN #                                        pk80jsbl9530000000405227



FOR EURO TRANSFER.
Intermediary Bank:                         MASHREQ BANK, LONDON
Intermediary Bank SWIFT BIC:         MSHQGB2L
Beneficiary Bank:                         JS BANK LIMITED
Beneficiary Bank SWIFT BIC:                 JSBLPKKA
Bank A/c # at Intermediary bank:         10847
Title Of a/c                                Shamim Masih
Beneficiary Account Number:                 405527
IBAN #                                        pk80jsbl9530000000405227

**************************************

Another exodus of refugees from Pakistan

 

BANGKOK - It has been a year since 14-year-old Samantha moved with her parents, elder sister and elder brother to Bangkok. She still does not clearly understand why they left their home in Lahore and moved to Thailand. All she knows is that her father was in trouble back in their hometown and some bad people wanted to kill him to avenge what they said was his unruly behaviour and remarks that he supposedly made at his workplace that resulted in a fight. In Bangkok she spends her time playing games on computer and playing with a large number of young children also from Pakistan and some Thai children that also live in the same compound. She has picked up a number of Thai words and proudly claims to be an expert in conversation with local Thai people.


Talking to this scribe the other day Samantha said she was very happy but missed her school. “Uncle nothing has changed as we eat the same Pakistani food and go to church every Sunday. I am leader among the youngsters here and they all call me deedi (elder sister),” she proudly said.


The scribe has been living with Pakistani families seeking asylum and refugee status in Thailand for more than two weeks. …  This report, however, is just based on findings in Thailand where these people are referred to as urban refugees and are mostly living in the suburbs of Bangkok.

 

Pakistani Christians in the last two years have moved in large numbers to Thailand. The problems they face at the hands of extremists are just beginning of their ordeal. Their first test comes at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports. They are asked hefty amounts to board the plane by immigration officials. On average one family of four people pay $800 to $1,000 for embarking on the plane. Mrs Sarfaraz Jacob who moved from Lahore in January with her daughter, son and daughter-in-law was offloaded for not paying the bribe. The next day she again tried and was able to negotiate their exit for $800. The officials do not take bribe in rupees and demand payment only in dollars. “I pleaded with them that the money I had was my pension and gratuity of public sector service as a teacher. They paid no heed to my requests and said I was going to seek asylum abroad,” she said. Interestingly all the travel documents and visas of these people are genuine and the authorities have no right to stop them.

 

When they arrive in Bangkok the real test begins. After filing for asylum they have to wait for nearly three to four months for call from UNHCR. They are given asylum seeking certificates. But during this period they are at risk of getting caught by local police as their visas expire after two months. They have to pay hefty amounts as bribe to cops to escape detention. After getting asylum seeking certificates then begins the wait for second call for interview which usually comes after one year, 18 months or after two years. During this period if they fall sick they can be treated at some designated hospitals after getting clearance from Bangkok Refugee Centre (from where they also get medicines for common diseases and illnesses). BRC medical unit is …

 

During the period of their application if some person falls sick and dies it becomes very difficult to bury the dead. A child of one Javed died soon after birth. It cost 1,800 bhat to get him buried. No welfare organisation helped in the burial. Sharoon Gill was a civil engineer in Pakistan. His mother passed away last December after renal failure due to depression and loneliness. His mother’s body was cremated and sent to Pakistan for burial. “My daughter and son were school going in Pakistan. Their only complaint was of not wearing uniform and attending school. They would look at Thai children in envy and used to ask me when they would go to school. Thank God now they attend school as I and my wife teach at this refugee school,” he revealed. There is donor fatigue and the local churches have also stopped supporting the asylum seekers and refugees.

 

Life is not easy for those who leave Pakistan and dream of finding peace again. Bangkok is an expensive city and they have to look after themselves for nearly three years before their refugee process is complete and they may be given the option to settle in third country by the UNHCR. They have to pay for food and lodgings. The last ordeal comes when they are ready to leave Thailand. According to local law the family must live in Immigration Detention Centre for seven days before leaving. They can escape detention by paying fine of 20,000 bhat each.

 

 

“In Thailand there are about 120,000 refugees in nine camps. Then there are about 1,000 Rohingyas. For the urban refugees we have to differentiate between asylum seekers and refugees. All asylum seekers seek refugee status but not all get that. We do individual refugee determination, which is also why it takes so long even after they get registered. It is a very intensive process. You get called in for first interview. Then it is very in-depth process, where we find out as to why did the person leave his home country.

 

 

Considering the situation it is high time for the Pakistan government to take up this issue and end the woes of minorities and ethnic groups who are persecuted by extremists in the name of religion or for their own vested interests. The solution to Pakistani refugees’ problems needs to be explored by the Pakistan government to end their medical insurance exploitation. (Another exodus of refugees from Pakistan; By EMANUEL SARFRAZ; The Nation; 3/19/14)

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PAKISTAN: Legalising prostitution -- the Wisdom of the UN?!

 

According to a research, modern day trafficking, aka slavery is a $32 billion annual industry and according to the U.N. about 2.5 million people around the world are ensnared in the web of human trafficking at any given time.  The usual victims of atrocious crimes of sexual and gender based violence, including rape against women & girls (young, adolescents and teen) are poor, uneducated, rural and trafficked ones.

 

 

… According to a news report published in the Express Tribune (Pakistan) on 24, February 2014, the country may join the group of some 44 countries already on the 'Tier 2 Watch List' as human trafficking is rising in the country at an alarming level – the number of most-wanted human traffickers in the country has jumped from 89 to 141 in the last four years.

 

 

Ps: I want to quote Ms.Nasreen Azher, former member of the National commission on the status of Women, a renowned and highly respected woman rights activist of Pakistan who while responding to my email on this issue to some important human rights, child rights and women rights network in Pakistan wrote "I agree Rakhshanda. That the UN is even considering legalizing prostitution is outrageous. It shows how the market is ruling the world and corrupting human values and causing human suffering. The pimps, exploiters and, of course, the traffickers, as well as  those who buy sexual services should be penalized.  Thanks for sharing. Regards.Nasreen" (PAKISTAN: Legalising prostitution -- the Wisdom of the UN?! By Dr.Rakhshinda Perveen; Asian Human Rights Commission; 3/25/14)

 

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REPORT: AT LEAST 700 CHRISTIAN WOMEN FORCED INTO ISLAMIC MARRIAGES YEARLY IN PAKISTAN

 

A new report reveals that at least 700 Christian women are kidnapped and forced into conversion to Islam and Islamic marriages in Pakistan each year.

 

According to the Fides agency, the Solidarity and Peace Movement, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, associations, and institutions, including the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Bishops, has prepared the alarming report. The report also revealed that about 300 Hindu women experience the same fate each year in Pakistan.

 

The authors of the “Forced Marriages and Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan” report have cautioned, however, that the number of women cited is the official number of reported cases; “the true extent of the problem is probably much bigger, since many cases are not reported.”

 

The report explains that the Christian and Hindu women cited are between the ages of 12 and 25, from poor families and lower social classes. Many of the kidnappings are never filed as complaints due to fear of threats. In the cases that do make it to court, the women are often abused and intimidated, then claim they have converted and married freely, leading to the dismissal of these cases.

 

“Under the custody of the kidnapper, she may suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and beatings, if not human trafficking,” the report notes.

 

… (REPORT: AT LEAST 700 CHRISTIAN WOMEN FORCED INTO ISLAMIC MARRIAGES YEARLY IN PAKISTAN; By DR. SUSAN BERRY; wahdat News; 4/11/14)    

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