Thursday, June 1, 2017

Pakistani Christian asylum seeker dies from neglect in Thailand's brutal IDC

Ijaz Paras Masih was arrested on the 6th June 2016 during a raid at his condo. The father of three was arrested with dozens of other Pak-Christians as Thai authorities began a heavy clampdown on unwanted asylum seekers. He was captured with three other family members but his wife and children who were out of the home at the time escaped detainment. 

Mr Masih had escaped from Pakistan with a large swathe of his family, dozens of who travelled to Thailand to seek asylum, others to Dubai, Malaysia and other destinations which are unknown outside their original homeland. The family have lost touch with each other in a sad case of fear-driven isolation. 

Their reason for fleeing what had been comfortable lives was to escape the zealots out to massacre their whole family after two brothers had been accused of blasphemy including one Qaiser Ayub Bhatti who originally escaped to Thailand. Sadly for Mr Bhatti who held a Master’s degree in IT he sought asylum in Thailand but was rejected by an apathetic UNHCR despite compelling evidence. He was forced back to Pakistan in 2014 after which he was traced and captured by Police and is now serving a blasphemy sentence with his brother for an alleged online blasphemy offence. The Masih family started being threatened for hiding Qaiser in their home and life became untenable after a series of threats in 2015. 

Whilst incarcerated in the brutal Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Bangkok Mr Masih started to exhibit signs of poor health despite being perfectly healthy before his arrest. He was regularly fatigued, found himself gaining high blood pressure, in regular pain and then on 22nd October 2016, he was rushed to a local hospital after he collapsed to the floor and was unable to upright himself whilst talking in a slurred fashion. 

The only silver lining of Mr Maish's poor health was the ability to meet his family and touch them for the first time in months. 

It was not good news for Mr Masih, he had suffered a severe stroke and this eventually left him totally paralysed on the left side of his body. Mr Masih was never the same again. 

Thai authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees allegedly refused to pay for his treatment which included a total of 22 days as an inpatient - a few months later a kindly Pastor covered the costs but the failure by the poor family left Thai Authorities with a fatally poor impression of Mr Maish - one that would lead to his death. 

The failure by the Thai Authorities and UNHCR to cover ongoing medical treatment meant that a potentially controllable health condition was left to fester. Mr Masih complained about his health condition daily to know avail his requests for treatment were constantly ignored by both the Thai Authorities and UNHCR reducing Mr Maish's quality of life during his last few months. 

Yesterday (27th May 2017) whilst the detention centre staff where putting inmates through a physical exercise routine that is extremely arduous, Mr Masih complained about a pain in his chest. Apathetic detainee guards decided Mr Masih was pretending to be in pain to avoid the strenuous workout scheduled for detainees and so they chose to isolate Mr Masih in solitary confinement as a punishment. 

Not only did this alarming abuse of power result in Mr Masih being totally traumatised as per witness accounts from several other detainees who all saw Mr Masih visibly in pain. Moreover it exacerbated the condition Mr Masih was in which is now believed to be the early period of a heart attack. Mr Masih had been groaning with the pain he felt and asked for help, but was allegedly completely ignored. Other detainees heard him begging for the IDC staff to save his life, one detainee spoke with a relative and said: 

"This was a very distressing time for all of us. We could hear Mr Masih demanding that he be taken to hospital. IDC officer told him to stop pretending and despite his pain and the ignorance of the guards Mr Masih stayed noble and dignified. 

"Mr Masih simply asked that he be given a check-up so that he could receive the necessary treatment he required to stay alive. They refused to help for no other reason then the family's inability to pay for treatment. 

This whole situation has shocked us all to our core many of us have cried for our lost brother - he suffered so much just so one day he could be free of the daily threat to his life in Pakistan. Now his death has been most undignified he has been treated worse than an animal." 

To make matters worse Mr Masih suffered the ignominy of urinating in his clothes whilst in isolation a consequence of his rapidly declining health. 

Other inmates were so distressed by what was happening they clubbed together and collected 2000 baht and pleaded with the IDC staff to take Mr Masih to hospital. But despite every effort of his comrades and his obvious discomfort and pain the insouciant staff remained resolute that Mr Masih must be punished. 

Eventually after some hours Mr Masih was taken out of Isolation and taken to the communal showers to clean himself from his earlier uncontrolled urination. Whilst in a shower he collapsed and never woke again having suffered what other inmates are describing as a 'complete loss of dignity'. 

Instead of calling a paramedic or an ambulance or attempting to resuscitate Mr Masih, IDC staff dragged Mr Masih's body to the communal area where all the inmates are kept and deliberated with one senior officer after the other for an alleged 2 hours before finally receiving the go-ahead to call an ambulance to remove the corpse of Mr Masih and for a post-mortem examination at a local hospital. It was later that the autopsy confirmed that Mr Masih had died of a heart-attack. 

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, rushed across to meet the grieving widow of Mr Masih a strong determined woman called Shahida. She now faces a world without her husband which is extremely difficult when raised in a strongly patriarchal culture. Mr Masih's children have found it hard to cope with the loss of their father, who was kept away from them under extremely harsh conditions for the last few months of his existence. 

Whilst with the family Wilson called the UNHCR 24 hour hotline who expressed their great sorrow at the death of Mr Masih. They have agreed to meet with several family members and Mr Chowdhry at the UNHCR head office tomorrow, though a time has still to be agreed. 

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