Thai authorities to deport 70 Pakistani asylum seekers
Thai authorities yesterday convicted 70 Pakistani asylum seekers of staying illegally in Thailand, despite their protestations that they face persecution if they are sent home, as police intensify a crackdown on illegal immigration.
The Taling Chan Provincial Court issued fines and up to two-month suspended jail sentences to the group, which was charged with overstaying their visas and illegal entry. An officer in charge of the case, who declined to be named because of office policy, said they will be held in a detention centre until they are deported.
The group was accompanied by 11 children, who will also be held in the detention centre
One of the defendants, Emmanuel Shan, said the group consists mostly of Christian Pakistanis and some Ahmadi Muslims, and that members of the two religious groups face persecution in Pakistan.
"I'm Christian, and my life and family are not safe back in Pakistan," he said.
In 1984, predominately Muslim Pakistan enacted amendments to its constitution which punish Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims "or pose to be Muslims" with up to three years in prison.
Police said 52 of the defendants were arrested Tuesday after they were found to have formed a group that smuggled Pakistani asylum seekers into Thailand with the goal of reaching other countries.
Thailand regularly deports foreigners who are in the country illegally, even if they are recognised by the United Nations as refugees who are fleeing persecution.