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Pak-Christian Asylum seeker set free after 9 month incarceration in brutal Thai detention centre

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Mehwish Anna with her husband Sajjad Chand and daughters Sataish and Prisicla. 



A Pakistani Christian asylum seeker was set free after a brutal 9 month period of incarceration in the notorious Immigration Detention Centre of Bangkok.

Mehwish Anna was arrested on 10th September 2015 after she ventured out of her home and went to a nearby building to ask a friend if she would teach her daughters. Mehwish had simply desired some education for her daughters who had been missing school since arriving in Thailand.  The reason for this? Well Thailand has not signed UN conventions for asylum meaning education and employment are not permitted to asylum seekers or refugees.

Unfortunately for poor Mehwish Immigration officials and the local police authorities had planned a raid at her friends condo that day. Sadly this meant, Mehwish was arrested with 80 other Pakistani Christians during the largest reported raid of it's type in the country- a reaction to the Islamic extremist Erawan Shrine bombing that had taken place only weeks earlier.

After her arrest she was detained at Thonburi Police station for a few days. Mehwish was than taken to Thonburi Muncipal court where had to answer questions on why she had overstayed her visa and was required to pay a court fine to avoid being sent to Central jail, where she would have had to suffer wearing shackles and imprisonment with murders and other dangerous criminals.

Mehwish was then transported to the Immigration Detention Centre in a room built to house up to 100 detainees but currently used to detain over 200 people at a time.  The cramped conditions force documented asylum seekers and refugees to sleep over one another, crouching, or in worst cases standing up.

To add insult to injury bails had just been cancelled so charities could no longer free Mehwish from her incarceration. The bail process had been created after Pakistani Christians and the charities supporting them had challenged Thai authorities on their brutual process of incarceration. Women and Children were being arrested and detained despite having UNHCR registration papers for asylum or refugee status.  Moreover the conditions were appalling with concerns such as poor nutrition, sanitation and no access to healthcare despite many victims having died during detention due to severe pre-existing health conditions and illnesses.  

BPCA had been trying to bail out Mehwish since the start of January 2016 after she had been interviewed by the BBC whilst inside her IDC cell during a documentary. The BPCA had helped plan the documentary with the BBC and had introduced them to victims and felt obliged to help her. However, a number of unexpected delays by officers who failed to arrive to agreed bail hearing dates on a whim, without any warning or later explanation caused consternation and anxiety.  We believe the delays were quite intentional and were a response in reaction to the negative publicity the Thai nation was tarnished with, after the BBC documentary.       

Mehwish Anna outside the IDC.

After 5 months of continuous struggle by the BPCA, Mehwish Sajjad was released on 11th May 2016.  Her initial bail fee had been paid by a kindly Thai barrister Mr Kheja on behalf of the BPCA.  He loaned the money to us 28th December on assurance we would raise the funds to repay him on her release.  When we made the request in December we had the funds to pay the outstanding figure, but did not want to lock usable funds for a process that might never be successful .  However, by the time details were emerging of a potential release for Mehwish we realized all the funds in our account were committed to our school project in Pakistan, school in Thailand and the support of all our regular victims in both countries.  Caught in a financial quandary where an outlay of £1000 could cripple a small charity of our size, we appealed to Rescue Christians for help.  Thankfully they responded positively and with their assistance we were able to repay the barrister a few days late.

Mr Kheja is a gracious man with great compassion for the Pakistani Christians detained in the torturous IDC. He has without our request set free a further 14 Pakistani Christians.  9 of these Christians have repaid his loan but five victims have failed to pay the bail fees they borrowed.  The amount required to settle their debts is £5000 which would help remove anxiety from the victims.  Moreover it would also help Mr Kheja release further victims when the Royal Thai authorities again lift the ban on bails that has recently been re-implemeneted. Of course we have no obligation to help in these circumstances oue committment to help Mehwish was due to her sacrifice in speaking to the BBC, an act that shone a light on the re-persecution faced by Pakistani Christians in Thailand. However if donors make it possible we will help these families.

Sign our petition (click here)

Christian Malik our officer in Thailand described the struggle to release Mehwish, He said:

"Whenever I visited Mehwish's daughters, there was an emptiness inside them. They were distressed without their mother. I tried my best to explain her difficult circumstances to Immigration officers but my appeals were unheard. Often the Immigration officers  were on vacation and were not available to listen to our request. Other times they simply ignored us an told us to come back another day, it was heart wrenching.  Their bail procedure is now only open to mothers or those with a serious illness.  But as Mehwish's children were not incarcerated with her they were able to prolong Mehwish's agony.  The officers were extremely cruel and cold despite her plight."


Mehwish Anna with another Pakistani Christian outside the IDC. 

Mehwish Anna said: " I am extremely thankful to God for granting me freedom. I never realized the importance of my freedom and took it for granted. Now I know the value of freedom. I never met my family for over 9 months now I can protect my young daughters again and be a mother again.  When I should have been helping them they were helping me this has hurt me so much. This is the day that the Lord has made for me, I will rejoice in it. I am very thankful to BPCA and Rescue Christians who paid for my bail. Without their support, I wouldn't have seen my way to freedom."

Sajjad Chand, Mehwish's husband also spoke to Christian Malik after meeting his wife after a long time. He said, "I am thankful to the Lord that He has made it possible for me to see my wife. I am thankful to the BPCA and Rescue Christians for helping my family in the lowest ebb of my life. I will never forget this favor and I pray that Lord Jesus bless them a thousandfold for the mercy they have shown to a poor man like me. It was an extremely difficult time for me to be forcibly separated from my wife. I am very thankful for this favor."

If you feel led to help these suffering brothers and sisters in Thailand, then please use these bank details:

 

Sort Code: 20-44-22
Account number: 43163318
Bank: Barclays

Ref: Love for brothers and sisters in Thailand

You can pay on-line via this link (click here)

If you would like donate using PayPal our PayPal email address is: info@britishpakistanichristians.co.uk.

Any cheques should be made payable to the BPCA to our address: 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan

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