In March 2016, World Watch Monitor estimated that Thailand was home to 11,500 Pakistani Christian refugees seeking asylum. Although Pakistani Christians are the largest refugee group in Bangkok, there are many more groups seeking refuge. Refugees represent nearly 40 different nations and multiple religions, including Pakistani Christians, Pakistani Ahmadis, Vietnamese Christians, and Nigerian Christians.
Asylum-seekers are refugees requesting sanctuary in another country because of persecution in their home country. Asylum seekers do not have the intention of ever returning home, due to the danger they would encounter.
Most of the asylum seekers arrive to Thailand on a visitor’s visa that has been obtained legally. They then register with the UNHCR office located in Bangkok, in hopes of one day resettling to the West. In recent years, however, a backlog in the UNHCR has caused asylum seekers to wait nearly three and a half years for their Refugee Status Determination (RSD) interview, and consequently causing asylum seekers to overstay their visas. This overstay makes their presence in Thailand illegal, and vulnerable to arrest by the Thai immigration police. In addition, while they wait years for their interview, they have no access to work, education, nor health care.
Thailand is currently not a signatory of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and therefore does not provide protection to those seeking asylum. Quite contrary, the Thai government has been conducting mass arrests for over a year now. Once arrested asylum seekers are then brought to either the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) or Central Jail.
A recent BBC report showed the gross and inhumane conditions of the IDC. Each cell is overcrowded and filthy. Men wear almost nothing in order to keep cool, while the women care for the children who are also detained. Many women complain that their children are sick with diarrhea and vomiting from the unsanitary conditions of the cell and drinking water. In December 2015 and January 2016 two deaths occurred in the IDC after the guards neglected to provide care for two individuals that were ill.
In some instances, bail has been accepted to release the asylum seekers; however, most of the time it is unpredictable and not affordable for the average asylum seeker.
Through our Christian Rescue Fund, Jubilee Campaign has pledged $15,000 to an organization in Bangkok to help assist refugees. The organization, who would like to remain anonymous in order to protect their work in Thailand, partners with churches in Bangkok to help refugees by providing food and financial assistance for housing.
We cannot help these refugees without you. Please consider donating to help this vulnerable group, who has fled extreme persecution only to be met with more obstacles in Thailand.
We are grateful for your prayers and support!