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Thursday 29 September 2011

Pakistani Christian asylum seeker rejected on spurious grounds - part 1


BPCA recently received news about a Pakistani Christian who had his asylum application rejected by the UK Border Agency. Sources sent us the letter of rejection, and while we cannot comment on the details of the case or all the reasons why the application was rejected, some aspects of the rejection raise serious concerns that the Border Agency has a severely rose-tinted view of the situation for Christians in Pakistan.

Asylum applications are judged on whether there are substantial grounds shown for believing that the person making the application will face real risk of serious harm and is unable or unwilling to ‘avail himself of the protection of that country’. In this case the applicant claimed asylum on the grounds that he faced a real risk of the death penalty or execution and unlawful killing and torture of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Pakistan. In this case, although he has been in the UK for some years, family members in Pakistan were attacked by militants looking for him.

The BA first of all rejected his claim to have worked for Christian organisations while in Pakistan. It then used this rejection as a basis for rejecting his story about threats while working for those organisations. Additional grounds for rejecting his story was that he did not go to the police when he was threatened, and that he didn’t for self-protection stop working for the organisations that they asserted in the paragraph before that he did not in fact work for as he claimed. Talk about having your cake and eating it. Either he worked for them or he did not!

But the other concern is this. Imagine if such a line was used against a priest or church minister – that he did not stop doing church work after threats. In other words, the very dedication to Christian work that makes these people such a target for Muslim aggression, and keeps them doing God’s work in the face of it is used as evidence against them in their claim for asylum. This is perverse reasoning indeed!

The Border Agency rejected his assertion that his family had been threatened and his brother beaten by militants looking for him. In other words, they think it was made up. One of the reasons they gave for disbelieving him is that his family also never went to the authorities.

The fixation the BA official has with the fact that people did not go to the police indicates ignorance of the fact that very many crime victims do not go to the police in Pakistan because of police corruption and fear of blackmail by the police. Christians especially have found that going to police often means police refusing to take reports of incidents, and indeed often using the kidnap of Christian girls as a pretext to coerce and blackmail parents into converting to Islam. In the notorious Gojra case were many Christian houses were burned and a family burned alive the police refused to file a report until the now assassinated Christian Government Minister Shabbhaz Bhatti intervened and forced them to. In other cases where Christians were under attack, police forced them to sign agreements only to have church services when Muslim mullahs deemed them not ‘offensive’.

If by authorities the BA means the legal establishment, then it again shows its ignorance of the nature of much of the Pakistani legal community. Some lawyers groups are to all intents and purposes Muslim extremist pressure groups in themselves, whom police are often afraid to go against, as witnessed in last year’s case of the 12 year old Shazia Bashir, a Christian girl who was raped, beaten an d tortured to death by her employer, a supreme court advocate. The police covered up the cause of death by falsifying the autopsy until the family ordered a second autopsy, and the police refused point blank to accept a report about the murder.

More to follow.....

Here is what Premier Christian Radio reported after we highlighted the case to them.  The victim is obtaining a letter of support against the arguments above from the BPCA:

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