During my time in Bangkok a few weeks ago, I had the immense privilege to connect with various vulnerable persons living in the communities of Bangkok seeking asylum after having to flee for their lives.
I heard horrific stories of families experiencing severe violence and abuse at the hands of terrorists, as a result of the unjust blasphemy laws and the non-sensical apostasy laws in Pakistan.
For minority groups in particular, living in Pakistan means living in fear every day.
Pakistan practices blasphemy and apostasy laws, which sees many vulnerable minority groups in the country susceptible to the death sentence based on an accusation.
Section 295-C of the Penal Code in Pakistan ensures that those accused of blasphemy receive the death sentence. Often without a fair trial, without access to representation for the accused, and even without any evidence gathered against the accused.
Christians are the main targets by the fundamentalist and religious political parties. The law is being used for forced conversion, forcibly taking over the lands and business of Christians, hindering the preaching of Christian faith and for settling personal scores, rivalries and vengeance.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have proved to be the most injurious weapon of active religious persecution by the extremists with encouragement from the government.
Many innocent persons have been falsely accused under these laws and the number is still on the rise.
Victims are severely manhandled and even murdered by mobs and individuals; their families go in hiding. According to sources, 51 people accused of blasphemy were murdered before their respective trials were over.
This horrific reality often leads minority families to flee for their lives.
Everyone has the right to seek asylum, according to Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is for this reason that it is extremely heart breaking to see first hand the severe human rights violations these already traumatised and vulnerable persons are experiencing in Bangkok.
They have to endure imprisonment with the criminal population, the removal of their dignity, privacy, the denial of their basic needs, such as nutritious food and clean water, and they are separated from their families.
In the midst of such challenges, I met some extraordinary people moved by compassion, seeking to help the asylum seeker community in Bangkok, as much as they can.
Such persons was the lovely Christian Thai couple who are providing food, spiritual support and friendship to asylum seekers in Bangkok.
He is known affectionately as Papa Thongchia – a local Thai Christian Pastor, who is featured in the below video.
Asylum seekers in Bangkok do not have the opportunity to work to provide for their families, yet, they are required to provide for their own subsistence. They have to rely on the compassion, and grace of those in the community to simply survive.
A very real concern when seeking asylum is the education of children and young people.
As a refugee kid myself, I was lucky, I only missed year one, and quickly learned English when I arrived in Australia.
Families escape to not only ensure that their families remain safe, but also to give their children a better future.
Education is a large part of this.
Everyone has the right to education according to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to UNICEF, The Convention on the Rights of the Child and many of the global education goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, aim at ensuring the right to quality education which, unfortunately millions of children and women around the world are deprived of. Globally, some 67 million children remain out of school.
In Pakistan, some 7 million children are out of primary school, of which close to 60 per cent are girls. The cumulative effect over years is that more than 50 million Pakistanis over 10-years-of-age are illiterate. While more than two-thirds of boys can read, less than half of girls are literate. The consequences of this education deficit are enormous, both from a child rights perspective and from a productive labour force point of view.
Access to educaiton becomes extremely difficult while families are in transit countries waiting for their refugee status to be determined and processed by UNHCR. A process which is often uncertain, fraught with delays and unknowns.
Regardless, asylum seekers tend to do their best, in such challenging circumstances.
The following video shares the story of a young Pakistani Christian girl in Bangkok in such a situation.