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Friday, 5 July 2013

Pakistani Christians Abroad - Asylum issues

Martha Bibi with Martyr Bhatti - picture from Asia News
Martha Bibi, the Christian mother accused of blasphemy in 2007 after Muslim contractors did not want to pay for construction goods brought from her and her husband's firm, has fled with her husband and a daughter to Sri Lanka, with the aim of claiming refugee status and seeking asylum in the West, according to reports.  She has been facing a possible death sentence since 2007, but close to 6 years after her original accusation, a date for trial was finally set several months ago.

Meanwhile Rimsha Masih, whose case garnered international press attention last year, has been granted asylum along with her family in Canada.  However, reports indicate that the family do not want it their exact location to be known, although it is known to be somewhere in the Toronto region, as they are still afraid of the consequences, even in Canada.  Sources within the Canadian Immigration department have said that the BPCA's submission (which they had already praised) about the situation of Christians in Pakistan had some impact on the approach to this case.  

Sources 1, 2, and 3

A Pakistani Christian lawyer visited Thailand earlier in the year to examine the conditions of Pakistani Christians who fled there, and found them in grave financial difficulties.  Thailand hasn't signed up to the 1951 international accord on refugee status, so all refugees and asylum seekers there are regarded as illegal immigrants and get no official aid, but have to rely on their own - often meagre - financial resources.  Fear of police raids mean some keep having to move accommodation and pay new security deposits.  Some refugees suffer trauma related conditions due to persecution back in Pakistan.  There are also security concerns about revealing their identity or having their photo taken, especially if they are forcibly deported back to Pakistan.  The lawyer put out an appeal for help.  

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