GMA calls on UK Government for ‘Group Recognition Status’ for Pakistani Persecuted Christians

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

(Glasgow: UK) A Scotland-based minority rights group is calling for ‘Group Recognition Status’ for Christians fleeing persecution from Pakistan and seeking sanctuary in the United Kingdom will ultimately be at ‘risk of persecution’ if sent back to Pakistan.

The call for ‘Group Recognition Status’ recommendation was made in light of the recent decision in AK and SK (Christians: risk) Pakistan CG [2014] UKUT 569 (IAC) with reference to UNHRC guidelines on international protection Religion-Based Refugee Claims under Article 1A (2) of the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights (ICESCR).

‘It is utterly ridiculous that UK Government believes Christians are not persecuted in Pakistan if Christians are burnt to ashes in the brick kiln, their houses are chemically bombed, they are shot and poisoned in the police custody. What else counts for persecution’ said GMA’s Chairperson Mannassi Bernard.

‘You cannot make a policy out of a single case you need to consider the plight of Christians in Pakistan holistically and case by case on its merit’ stressed Mr Bernard.

Last month GMA was invited to be part of hearing sessions convened by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Religious Freedom and Belief on the 10 and 11 of November, 2015 chaired by Lord David Alton, in the Houses of Parliament attended by some 20 representatives of various organisations working for minority rights across the UK. GMA’s delegates provided the evidence of persecution of all minorities and expressed GMA’s concern for the safety of minorities’ due to the fragile political, economic and judicial infrastructure which is often used to target the vulnerable minorities of Pakistan.

Following the hearing sessions in London, GMA has compiled the recommendations for the UK government to revisit its policy towards persecuted Christians from Pakistan to consider them under ‘Group Recognition Status’ whilst they seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom given the plight of minorities in Pakistan. Our recommendations will be part of the comprehensive report compiled by the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom and Belief (APPG).

Whilst GMA recognises that Pakistan as with all signatories, have a general reservation to interpret the ICESCR Covenant within the framework of their own constitution, (ICESCR Art 2 para.1 of the covenant) (UN.24 of the Reservations- CESCR General comment 3. 1990) GMA believes that any reservation held should not take precedence to the behest of human suffering or human life).

(AK & SK Christians: risk ) 2014  was an appeals case involving the appellants, a brother and sister (both of whom are Christian, and of Pakistani origin) they initially entered the UK on study visas but later applied for asylum on the basis of religious persecution.  The case highlighted the question as to whether or not Pakistani Christians in general were at serious risk of persecution and as such deserved international protection and group status for the purpose of claiming asylum.

The author of GMA’s recommendation report Chelsea Alexander a legal expert maintained:

In light of GMA’s Report in relation to AK & SK Christians at risk and the recent BBC Panorama Documentary on the “The Taliban Hunters” aired 14/12/15. I believe there is not only an urgent need for Governments in relation to their COI guidance to revisit the Pakistan Governments sufficiency of protection and ability to provide it but also to consider whether or not in the circumstances to adopt and incorporate these findings to the existing asylum procedure in favour of group recognition.

Click on the link below to read in full GMA’s recommendations on (AK&SK Christians: risk) 2014

http://www.globalminorities.co.uk/gma-reports/ak-sk-christian-risk-2014

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Impressions of a day at the Munich railway station

On Saturday I was in Munich, at the railway station. Many thousands refugees had been announced. As soon as I got off the train, I noticed policemen. Everywhere policemen. And then I saw them, the refugees. They were held separate with a rope and only registered volunteers, police and them had permission to enter that area.

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When I arrived there were around thirty refugees outside the arches. I asked what was going on inside the archway. “There they get water, food and a first medical check is carried out,” was the answer I was given.

I saw a policeman slapping a child by mistake. He just turned and the child was behind him. No reaction. I did not expect any reaction from the policeman. But I would have expected one from the child. But it was as if he was used to it. As if he cared about nothing.

I saw a very young child (maybe 2 years old) going bananas and shouting out loudly at seeing a dog. He wanted to step out the area and stroke the animal. The policeman immediately grabbed him and threw him back to the crowd. It was just a reaction to a dog. It was just a child.

I saw a mother sharing biscuits with her daughter, and taking one out of the daughter´s mouth. She was probably hungry. Otherwise why would you take your child´s food?

I saw a Syrian baby toddle toward me as I was offering a lollipop. The little girl could not open it. Maybe it was seeing it for the first time in her life. Her brother also had his difficulties and I offered to help him. As he had taken the paper in the mouth, he first cleaned the lollipop on his sweatshirt and then handed it over to me. He then nodded his head for thanking me.

I also saw volunteers spending their weekend helping the refugees. Actually, organisations are overwhelmed by people who are offering their time, money and material things. There has been a surprising solidarity wave in many parts of Germany. Munich and Bavaria belong to them. I have seen old people buying sweets and chocolates for Syrian, Egyptian, Pakistani and Afghan children as if they were their grandkids. I saw tons of water bottles, sweets, clothes and blankets waiting for being distributed. I saw children saying “Thank you” when given a sweet, people clapping their hands and welcoming refugees, wishing them good luck for their future.

I spoke with Khalid, a Syrian man who moved to Germany in 1982. He was waiting for his cousin. And he was also helping people, explaining them what was going on, what would happen in the coming days. “They are confused”, he told me, “they get diverse information and most of them do not speak nor understand English, so communication is very difficult.” I asked him if the refugees who were arriving there were the poorest ones, as I saw the majority with cellular phones, tablets and other technological tools. “No”, he answered, “the wealthiest ones have left the country years ago. These here are barely above the average. The poorest are still in Syria.” I also asked him what people expect from a life in Europe, or Germany. “Their expectations are very high”, Khalid stated, “they come here with the belief they will find a well- paid job. This is the first shock. The integration will also be difficult: European and Arabic mentalities are very different. So there might be many clashes during daily life. But first, they must understand how to make the first steps. This is why I am here today.”

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Then I met Jaad, another Syrian guy who had reached Munich on Friday. “Now we are waiting for our train to Hamburg, where friends of ours live. There I will create a new life for my family, InshAllah. I have got an MBA and hope to find a job as soon as I have learned German.” They look exhausted. The kids are dirty, tired and hungry. “It was not possible for us to stay in Syria any more. The war will not stop in the next months and conditions are getting worse.” While telling me his story, his son, who was sitting on my lap, ate a muffin. A whole muffin. That’s what I call health!

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Arson, displacement and unemployment: Life after asylum in Germany

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It is almost impossible to legally ask for asylum in Germany. In order to do so the country from which a person enters Germany must itself be carrying out persecution. This does not apply to any of the countries that border Germany, so the only way to legally ask for asylum is to enter the country by sea or air.

According to the Dublin Convention, Germany can send any asylum seeker back to their country if the government is able to prove where they come from. If this cannot be done, the asylum seeker can still only apply for limited protection.

After having applied, the asylum seekers are dispersed across the Bundesländer (the German federal states) and must stay in the accommodation they are given until a decision is made about their request. This process can go on for more than a year, especially for those from countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan. If asylum cannot be granted, they may still be granted protection as refugees. A refugee is a person who “is temporarily out of their native country because of fear of persecution due to their religion, nationality, political view or social conditions” and “whose human rights have been or might be violated”.

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