The application of several members of the clergy was also turned down. Participation in the event required a letter of recommendation from Card Joseph Coutts to guarantee that the applicant would not seek asylum in Europe. The Irish consulate explained that their decision was based on applicants’ family circumstances, economic situation and social conditions.
Ireland has decided not to grant visas to thousands of Pakistani Christians.
The consulates in Karachi and Islamabad turned down applications by families wishing to attend the upcoming World Meeting of Families (WMF) in Dublin from 21 to 26 August. Pope Francis will be present at the event.
About 10,000 families from around Pakistan had applied; 600 from the Archdiocese of Karachi alone. All requests were rejected. Even clergymen saw their application refused. Speaking about the issue, Father Anthony Abraz, parish priest at the Good Shepherd church in Karachi, said that in the case of many families, “The visa officer [. . .] found insufficient evidence of strong family, social, economic or other obligations to return” home after staying in Ireland. The clergyman himself was denied a visa also because he had not taken part in similar events in the past.
The Irish consulate in Karachi said that it analysed the reasons for going to Ireland and other criteria, including family circumstances, financial situation, employment details, travel reasons and accommodation in Ireland.
However, for Father Abraz, “All applications should have been assessed on a case-by-case basis”, noting that two groups of lay people received identical letters.
Church authorities had screened potential pilgrims, and Card Joseph Coutts of Karachi only granted letters of recommendation to those who were not interested in seeking asylum.
Many Catholics are outraged at how the whole thing was handled.
Samuel Sarfraz, who works at a pharmaceutical company in Multan (Punjab), sold a residential plot to raise 300,000 rupees (US,420) for non-refundable visa applications and registration fees for his family of three children to attend the Irish event.
“This is a conspiracy to mint money from people who are already marginalised and discriminated against in a Muslim-majority country. If the policy was to reject all Pakistanis, why did they accept visa and registration fees for the world meeting?” he asks.
The Pakistani passport precludes the possibility of visiting many countries. The Henley Passport Index ranks the Pakistani passport as third worse after Afghanistan and Iraq.