Thai authorities in Bangkok have arrested 51 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in an incident that has reignited fears among the city’s Christian refugees of another immigration crackdown on illegal immigrants.
According to eyewitnesses, immigration authorities arriving in two police vans pulled up outside a low-rent apartment building in Bearing Soi 7 in eastern Bangkok where several Pakistani Christian families had been hiding out after having overstayed their tourist visas to Thailand.
Likely acting on a tipoff from a disgruntled local, immigration police knocked on selected doors around 7 a.m. on July 8. When the fearful residents failed to respond, officers battered the doors down with hammers.
They then proceeded to round up entire families and take them to Bangkok’s notorious Immigration Detention Center where inmates languish, often indefinitely, in squalid and overcrowded cells.
“They took everyone — men, women, old people, young children,” a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker who was privy to the incident via a phone connection told ucanews.com. “They even took sick old people who can’t walk anymore.”
When several Christian asylum seekers seemed reluctant to leave the apartments, immigration officers allegedly manhandled them, including mothers in front of their crying children.
“The officers roughed up some people, even women,” a Pakistani Christian told ucanews.com. “They took some of my friends. I’m very concerned about them.”
As evidence of the incident, Pakistani Christians showed off images, taken with mobile phones, of plywood doors bashed in and numerous Pakistani refugees, including a distraught elderly woman, being taken away in police vans.
The incident has raised fears among Pakistani Christians in Bangkok that local authorities might be launching another crackdown on people staying illegally in the country, including asylum seekers with no proper refugee status.
Hundreds of Pakistani Christians who have fled their homeland in fear of their lives remain in legal limbo in Bangkok.
They arrived in the country on tourist visas that have long since expired. Thai authorities, who refuse to accept them as genuine refugees, consider them to be illegal immigrants.
As a result, Pakistani Christians, along with other persecuted minorities from other countries, are routinely arrested and detained at overcrowded immigration detention centers in prison-like conditions.
To avoid that fate, Pakistani Christian asylum seekers spend their time hiding from the authorities in small low-rent apartments. They say they cannot or will not return to Pakistan because they would be certain to be persecuted, and possibly killed, owing to their religious beliefs.
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