Relaymedia

Pakistani Christian Denied Refugee Status Dies in Detention Center in Thailand

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2017 11:35 AM EDT
A Pakistani Christian refugee who was not given proper medical attention died at a detention center in Thailand on Saturday. His case is yet another display of neglect for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers by the Thai government and the UNHCR.
An Afghan family, returning from Pakistan, watch a short video clip about mines during a mines and explosives awareness program at a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) registration centre in Kabul. Reuters

A Pakistani Christian refugee who was not given proper medical attention died at a detention center in Thailand on Saturday.

Ijaz Tariq, 34 years old, reportedly complained of chest pains but immigration officials would not take him to a hospital. He died a few hours later from a heart attack while in his cell at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok, UCA News reported.

Immigration officials and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) earned intense criticism from the Pakistani Christian community.

Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) president Dr. Nazir Bhatti said the death of Tariq and the IDC's refusal to grant him medical assistance were a "violation of human rights for which UNHRC Bangkok office and Thailand government are equally responsible."

"I am sending memorandum to Human Right Commission of UN in Geneva about violation of human rights by Thailand government on arrest of Pakistani Christian Asylum seekers and not providing medical assistance to detainees in IDC Bangkok," Bhatti said in a statement to Pakistan Christian Post.

Like other refugees in Thailand, Tariq was arrested for violating immigration laws. He was not allowed the right of bail. On Friday, just one day before he died, UNHCR Bangkok denied him refugee status.

Bhatti blamed the UNHCR for hiring Sunni Muslim Pakistani translators "who are employees of ISI and IB of Pakistan government." He accused the translators of intentionally misinterpreting Pakistani Christians' words to make their interviews unsuccessful.

According to Bhatti, the UNHCR is fully aware of what the translators are doing. He said he would forward Tariq's case to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. He urged the Thai government to allow Pakistani Christian refugees to post bail and to protect their rights, especially those who are detained for minor immigration charges.

Tariq was not the first Pakistani Christian asylum seeker to have suffered unjust treatment from Thai immigration authorities and the UNHCR. Last year, Naushad Young came close to dying from a heart condition because of "negligence of U.N. and and cold-heartedness of the Thai authorities," according to Christians in Pakistan.

"Pakistani Christians who get hooked by the Thai Immigration authorities have had to face pathetically callous treatment in the Immigration Detention Centers in Bangkok," Christians in Pakistan reported.

A refugee named Zahid Younas said Young and his family arrived in Thailand in 2013 and applied for refugee status.

"However, as Thailand refuses to sign UN conventions for asylum his official status with the Royal Thai Government is 'visa overstayer' despite having registered under the UNHCR process and having official documents," Younas told British Pakistani Christian Association.

Refugees who end up detained in IDC suffer from various problems like malnutrition, infections, harassment and hygiene problems. Overcrowding in the cells force some inmates to sleep standing up or crouching, BPCA said.

On February 2016, a report released by the BBC revealed that Thailand "routinely arrests and detains asylum seekers," particularly Pakistani Christians, including children, who entered the country to flee from religious persecution in their home country.

"They are held despite being UN-registered asylum seekers, whom the UN is under a duty to protect," the BBC reported.

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