UNHCR’s Delay in Resettling Persecuted Christians Raises Concerns

Farrukh Saif

March 5, 2024

UNHCR: Thailand

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays a crucial role in the global response to displacement. It is tasked with providing protection and finding durable solutions for millions forced to flee their homes. However, recent concerns have surfaced regarding the apparent delays in the resettlement process for persecuted Pakistani Christians seeking refuge. More than twelve hundred families are stranded in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia; these Christian families have been waiting for their resettlement for over a decade. Unfortunately, these Christians are mostly living in one-room apartments without the necessities of life. One such victim is Talib Masih, who is in Thailand from last 12 years.

Who is Talib Masih:

I hope that the majority of the world is well aware of the Gojra riots in August 2009, where Muslims burned Christian houses and seven people alive. This was all done based on a false accusation that Talib Masih had torn the pages of the Quran during the wedding ceremony of Mukhtar Masih’s daughter.

The local police in Gojra city registered an FIR against Talib Masih, Mukhtar Masih, and Imran Masih in July 2009 (FIR No-426/2009). And arrested three of them; even after that, radical Muslims in Gojra city burned 107 Christian homes, and seven persons were burned alive.

After the inquiry into the case, all three individuals were found innocent. However, radical Muslims in Gojra were demanding their handover for punishment. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, police officials advised them to relocate to safer places.

Some Christian NGOs provided shelter for them for a couple of years. In 2012, Talib Masih was moved to Thailand and sought asylum with UNHCR Bangkok. Unfortunately, after years of anticipation, UNHCR Bangkok rejected his application in 2016. Following interventions by different organizations, his file was reopened, and he was granted refugee status in 2017.

Nevertheless, he has been waiting for resettlement in a third country since then. During this time, Talib Masih developed heart problems, and his health has been deteriorating with multiple issues. Despite being a refugee for the last seven years, he is in a state of limbo; he cannot work, and he lacks access to proper medical treatment, making his life exceedingly difficult. Talib’s case is only one example; hundreds of Pakistani Christians have experienced severe persecution, yet for over a decade, these oppressed Christians have been stranded in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Bangkok, Thailand.

Case Study: Pakistani Christians in Limbo:

A poignant example of this issue is the predicament of persecuted Pakistani Christians stranded in Bangkok. Despite overwhelming evidence from reputable organizations such as the PEW Research Center, Open Doors, Human Rights Watch, and the US State Department, the UNHCR has been slow to recognize the severity of religious persecution in Pakistan.

Reports indicate that asylum seekers and refugees, despite being labeled as members of religious minorities facing danger, are often treated as economic migrants. The reluctance of the UNHCR to expedite the resettlement process for those genuinely fleeing persecution raises questions about the effectiveness of their procedures.

The UNHCR must review and streamline its procedures to ensure a more efficient and compassionate response to the urgent needs of persecuted People. Recognizing the plight of vulnerable populations and prioritizing their resettlement is crucial in upholding the principles of human rights and international protection.

Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.

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