No visas for minorities | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

No visas for minorities

Pakistan Press Foundation

The current refugee crisis in Europe is not the only event that debunks the myth of Western civilisation’s high moral standards of human rights, by bringing out the dark side of the ‘developed world’. While the war in Syria brought the dichotomy out in the open, under the bureaucratic procedures that developed Western countries have followed for the past few years, it has become almost impossible for minorities in Pakistan to obtain visas to travel abroad — a draconian measure designed to keep the victims of persecution deliberately in their home countries.

The problem is that such measures also at the same time discriminate against legitimate members of minority communities who wish to travel abroad for tourism or work, restricting their economic and professional prospects.

The Ahmadi community in Pakistan is one such minority group, the members of which are having serious troubles obtaining any foreign visas, practically blocking the community at large from travelling outside the country. There have been recent cases where individuals of Ahmadi community applying for visas to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Europe, Australia and Canada have been refused in bulk, despite there being proof of financial stability and a past record of extensive travel.

When this was discussed with the visa applicants from the Ahmadi community, they pointed out that no reason for the refusals was provided. Visa applicants of their Muslim co-workers and friends with similar backgrounds having Islam written on the religious column of their passports were, however, granted visas even when they applied together in a group with Ahmadis. In the case of Thailand, the passports are being returned without any comments ostensibly so as to avoid any debate.

The crisis emanating from the global wave of refugees, asylum seekers and migrations has caused a major disruption in the West, hence the policy of refusing visas to Pakistani minorities, who are potential ‘asylum seekers’, is automatic. In usual cases, the countries wouldn’t be aware of the religious background or minority status of the applicants, but in the case of Pakistan with a highly discriminatory religious column on the passport, the victimisation starts from home and makes it a lot easier for the Western countries to pick and choose who to grant visas to based on the religious background, which is in direct contradiction to Western ethical and moral values.

In order to keep the migration and refugee populations under check and away from entering the developed world, Western governments have for decades provided development aid that many academic scholars on the subject believe is highly political and a depiction of Western selfishness to keep the West safe from the flooding migrant and refugee population. In other words, the idea of development aid is to keep a Third World country stable enough for the large populations to not end up on the shores of the West. Syria, hence, has been a nightmare scenario for the West, which believed in keeping the wars localised in developing countries and avoiding any spillover effects. The way in which Syrian refugees have been managed is evidence in itself of the principles that guide the actions of Western countries.

For long, Western comfort on the backs of the Third World has continued to deepen the divide between the two worlds. For an equally long period of time, the West believed it was protected through its development aid spending and tight border controls. But it is no more possible to ensure that poverty and plight in one part of the world does not have an impact across continents in another part of the world, as can be seen through the recent refugee crisis.

It is for a reason that the refugee crisis and immigration have become the most important subjects of debate throughout the West with tensions and racism soaring within Western cities. The peace that the West enjoyed for decades since the Second World War appears to be at stake and very little is on the table with regard to a policy solution to the dilemmas it faces.

As the UN and other agencies come up with a plan under the security-development nexus to stabilise parts of the developing world from total collapse, the minorities in those countries in the meantime are the first to suffer, both at the hands of domestic governments and the hypocrisy of the West.

The Express Tribune