The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has begun issuing identity cards to Pakistani asylum seekers residing in Thailand.
About 11,500 Pakistanis are seeking asylum in Thailand, a 51 percent increase from the previous year; with the majority being Christian, according to a recent report to the U.K. parliament.
Many of the asylum seekers have been hiding from Thai police for several years because in Thailand every asylum seeker — once their brief tourist visa expires — is liable to face prosecution for illegal immigration.
Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 protocol and does not have a formal national asylum framework.
Many Pakistani Christians have spent time in immigration detention centers for overstaying.
A recent BBC documentary vividly reported on the Christians’ plight, including secretly obtained video footage of the dank, overcrowded detention centers.
Following the publicity, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Thailand has begun issuing verification cards to asylum seekers, a temporary arrangement informally recognized by the Thai government, the World Watch Monitor reported.