The Thai government should ensure that recently arrested Pakistani asylum seekers are not returned to face persecution, torture, or other serious abuse in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Thai prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha. Almost all of the dozens of detained asylum seekers are from Christian and Ahmadiyya communities that have been prosecuted under discriminatory laws or attacked by religious extremists in Pakistan.
United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) should have constant and unimpeded access to the Pakistani asylum seekers to help ensure that no one is deported to a place where their lives or freedom are threatened, under the international customary law principle of nonrefoulement.
“The Thai government may not fully appreciate the grave dangers facing Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis back in Pakistan,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s critically important for Thai authorities to free Pakistanis recognized as refugees from detention and not to return any into harm’s way in violation of international law.”
Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for illegal entry or visa overstays as a part of a Thai immigration crackdown called Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner in which thousands of people have been detained. In a number of instances, immigration raids have targeted buildings where Pakistani and other South Asian community members live.
Thai authorities should not detain recognized refugees under any circumstances, Human Rights Watch said. The Thai authorities should recognize the critical importance of careful case-by-case consideration of asylum claims and abide by UNHCR determinations to ensure respect for the principle of nonrefoulement. They should also ensure compliance with Thailand’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture.