Nest is urging the Canadian government to fast track sponsorship applications from Pakistani Christians and other refugees living in Bangkok, Thailand, stating their situation is desperate and the UNHCR’s response is wholly inadequate.
The Thai government’s appalling treatment of refugees is well-documented. Even though most are UN registered asylum seekers – who are legally entitled to protection – they live in constant fear of being rounded-up, arrested and detained.
The Thai military government is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, or the 1967 Protocol.
A recent BBC documentary about the situation facing Pakistani Christians in Thailand found that hundreds of these refugees are arrested each month by the Thai immigration police, charged with illegal immigration and jailed.
As the husband of one refugee family told Nest: “We are facing persecution after persecution. We have no right to work. We are always hiding from authorities. . .They don’t care if we have a UNHCR certificate, neither small kids, pregnant women, nor sick persons. . . Anyone who is caught is sent to the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. It is a big risk for us to go outside, but we have to. Police catch us at markets, bus stops and even from our homes. . . We are living in scared situation. Please help us.”
Nest and other refugee groups in Canada are trying “to help” by sponsoring Pakistani Christian refugees in Thailand, but the Canadian government’s wait time for processing applications from that country is 50 months, up from 34 months less than a year ago. In contrast, applications from refugees in Lebanon or Turkey take only 8 months.
In an August 2 letter to Immigration Minister John McCallum, Nest called the lengthy processing time “unconscionable.”
Nest wants the Canadian government to dedicate sufficient resources to “fast track” these refugees – particularly those who already have sponsors in Canada.
“Your [government’s] decision to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees within a short period of time was a remarkable achievement,” the Nest letter states. “Now, we urge you to act to protect Pakistani Christians and other refugees in Thailand,” by making them an “urgent priority.”