By Cian Molloy - 27 January, 2019
“If you meet the criteria, if you have the regular documentation requested and you get a visa, a citizen must be free to leave.”
A group of young Catholics from Pakistan has been prevented from leaving the country to attend the World Youth Day celebrations in Panama.
The Vatican press agency Fides reported that 14 young people were prevented from travelling by officials belonging to Pakistan’s Department for Immigration, despite all having regular visas.
Paul Mohan, coordinator of the Catholic Youth Commission of the Diocese of Hyderabad, told Fides that, on the morning of 23 January, the group had already collected their boarding passes and had passed through airport security when they were prevented from boarding their aeroplane by Immigration Office staff.
The scheduled flight departed without the 14 but, after Mohan spoke to senior immigration officials, tickets were changed for a flight the following day. However, the young people were again prevented from leaving the country.
Atif Sharif of the Jesus Youth movement in Karachi said the action of the Immigration Office amounts to blatant discrimination. “If you meet the criteria, if you have the regular documentation requested and you get a visa, a citizen must be free to leave.”
Each of the 14 young people is out of pocket to the tune of 300,000 Pakistani rupees, or about €1,800.
In recent years, attacks on Christians by Muslim extremists have been on the increase, but this is believed to be the first time that Pakistani officials have deliberately curbed the right of Christians to travel or leave the country.