Seeking asylum

Published: March 19, 2012

UK’s Office for National Statistics, for example, tells us that that a total of 2,411 Pakistanis applied for asylum in 2011.

Recent reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have thrown more light on the consequences of Pakistan’s precarious security situation: according to the international agency, thousands of Pakistanis flee the country every year hoping to get respite from violence and religious discrimination.

It is well known that Pakistan has housed a record number of Afghan refugees over the years, even topping the UNHCR’s list of refugee-hosting countries in 2008. However, relatively little is said about the spike in Pakistanis seeking asylum. Records of asylum applications kept by host countries and international agencies are often the only way to corroborate this trend. A glance at immigration figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, for example, tells us that that a total of 2,411 Pakistanis applied for asylum in 2011 — almost double the amount of asylum applicants from Afghanistan in the same year and more than any other country in Asia.

Poor security, a rise in extortion and kidnapping, lapses in the justice system and growing intolerance for religious and ethnic minorities are all reasons why a growing number of Pakistanis have become desperate enough to flee. These problems are slowly getting so acute that professionals like doctors, journalists and artists have now joined the ranks of those who seek asylum — a tell-tale sign that even the average man in Pakistan is not safe if he speaks his mind.

Although the possibility of new leadership in 2013 has kept hope alive for many, things are not looking up for those contemplating asylum abroad. As a first step to counter this crisis, the government should publicly acknowledge this trend and accept that it has not been able to keep its citizens safe. Measures that have long been talked of, like depoliticising the police force and educating the public about minority rights, must be prioritised.

Unfortunately, with a government so mired in constitutional controversy and political parties vying for mass popularity before the looming general elections, it appears that difficult decisions will continue to be sidelined and more Pakistanis will slip across the border in search of a future they could not find at home.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2012.

Reader Comments (10)

  • Tahir
    Mar 19, 2012 - 6:13AM

    Fully agree with the editor. Security situation is getting worse, common are not safe. And unfortunately if you come across police you ll be treated as you are in the hands of some enemy army who has just taken over your country. There is an endless story of injustice in our country. Intolerance is climbing to sky , no one is ready to respect others opinion.

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  • Mirza
    Mar 19, 2012 - 7:29AM

    In 1970′s we did not like the elected govt and democracy. We wanted change. Change we got in the form of Generals. What we and Zia has sowed we are all reaping. Let us go for a change again and get a more rightwing dictatorial govt!

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  • Pakistani
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:31AM

    Well said. Security, kidnapping for ransom and religious descrimination with minorities in our country are the main reason for asylum seekers.

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  • Mar 19, 2012 - 10:14AM

    Pakistan is becoming more & more talibistan as our leaders except for Mr,Musharraf had drained us DRY
    Mr .Musharraf ‘s golden years we will never forget in which foreigners wanted to stay here in Pakistan & now its the other way around we Pakistanis want to get out of here for a better Brighter Future
    we are being forced to leave our homeland

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  • vasan
    Mar 19, 2012 - 10:23AM

    This is the status of the “Land of the pure” . I pity Pakistan. How impure they will get it before the tide turns. I hope and wish it the earliest recovery.

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  • Truthbetold
    Mar 19, 2012 - 12:06PM

    A lot of the asylum seekers are not from the minority groups who are truly discriminated against in Pakistan. A vast majority happen to be opportunistic economic illegal immigrants.

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  • Acorn Guts
    Mar 19, 2012 - 2:26PM

    The human rights situation in Pakistan is no secret. Any tendency to veer away from the mainstream religious/political doctrine is met with hostility. Although I have to say that these figures give a general trend of Pakistanis seeking to move out .. but not much in way of the actual humans rights situation in Pakistan. It’d be better understood if the figures for successful (authentic?) asylum cases was also provided.

    @Truthbetold: Once they enter the asylum claim process they are not ‘illegal immigrants’ any more are they? Please, no stereotype, this is not ‘Daily Mail’.

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  • Optimist
    Mar 20, 2012 - 3:16AM

    @ vasan

    Stop being whiter than the whites. Why you pity us when 70% of your population doesn’t even have toilets?
    .
    Your land of ‘not so pure’ is also in top 5 in seeking Asylum.

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  • kaalchakra
    Mar 20, 2012 - 11:25AM

    once I get asylum, I will start demanding Shariya in my new country. hahaha.

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  • Mar 24, 2012 - 10:45PM

    Only the Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus should be given asylum as they are the most discriminated people in Pakistan

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