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Published by: UNHCR_Thailand on Apr 26, 2013
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Thailand
Working environment
The context
Though not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention,Thailand has over the last three decades providedasylum to some 1.2 million refugees. Refugees fromMyanmar live in nine camps along the border and aresubject to
ad hoc
administrative arrangements, whilerefugees outside the camps are considered illegalmigrants under Thai law. Official admission to thecamps is managed by the Provincial Admission Boards(PABs), which were re-established in 2005.Since mid-2006, the situation in Thailand has beencharacterized by a reduction of the protection space forall groups of concern. As a result, UNHCR is havingdifficulty in implementing its mandate. In April 2007,the Office was requested by the Thai authorities to stopits refugee status determination (RSD), pendingconsultation. Furthermore, it has become increasinglydifficult to resettle urban refugees accepted forthird-country resettlement due to restrictions on exitvisas. An equally significant problem is the difficulty ofreaching refugees and asylum-seekers in detentioncentres.Migratory movements in the East Asia and the Pacificregion that converge on Thailand have increasinglygrown through the years. The country is host to morethan two million migrants. Within this context,considerations of national security and bilateralcooperation take precedence over the principle ofasylum. In addition, concerns about a perceived pullfactor play a role in shaping the Thai Government’sstance on refugee issues.
The needs
Myanmar refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border
In 2005, UNHCR began to collaborate with theCommittee for Coordination of Services to DisplacedPersons in Thailand (CCSDPT), a consortium of NGOs,to undertake annual joint needs assessments forMyanmar refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border. In
UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009251
 
2006, UNHCR launched the Strengthening ProtectionCapacity Project to identify gaps in refugee protectionand humanitarian assistance.The situation of Myanmar refugees in Thailand is amongthe most protracted in the world. The majority of theserefugees have lived in the camps for more than twodecades. They face insecurity in all aspects of theirlives, both inside and outside the camps and have tocontend with various social problems arising from aprotracted encampment situation.Refugee children are facing great difficulties in pursuingeducation past Grade 10. Meaningful involvement ofwomen in camp activities needs to be increased.Refugees’ basic rights and needs for their economic,social and psychological well-being remain unfulfilled.They do not have the right to work, and those who seekwork outside the camps are at risk of abuse andexploitation.Against this background, the introduction ofthird-country resettlement has opened a significantdurable solutions window. Some 10,000 departures areprojected by the end of 2007, with anticipatedsubmissions of 27,000 persons in 2008 and 22,000 in2009.
Urban refugees and asylum-seekers
Participatory assessments conducted with urbanrefugees and asylum-seekers, most of whom live inBangkok, reveal that their concerns revolve around theirillegal status in Thailand. Fear of arrest and deportation,intimidation by the host community, extreme poverty,lack of legal employment, exploitation and lack ofeducational opportunities are some of their mainconcerns.UNHCR is also concerned about the situation of theLao Hmong, of whom 149 have been detained inNong Khai since the end of 2006. There are alsosome 8,000 Lao Hmong living in temporary shelter inthe northern town of Petchabun. UNHCR does nothave access to this group, although some of themmay be in need of international protection. The RoyalThai Government is planning to screen and repatriatethose whom it deems do not have protectionconcerns. UNHCR is calling for a state screeningprocedure that is in line with international standardsof protection.
Total requirements
2008: USD 11,580,3942009: USD 12,010,847
Main objectives
Ensure the protection and physical security of allpersons of concern.
Promote and assist in the development of nationalrefugee-management bodies and procedures in linewith international protection standards.
Improve the social and economic well-being of refugees.
Expand the search for durable solutions for refugees.
Key targets for 2008 and 2009
The use of resettlement as a protection tool, adurable solution, and a responsibility-sharingmechanism is maximized; efficient pre-departureand departure arrangements are in place forrefugees accepted for resettlement.Provincial Admissions Boards are strengthened,with fair and efficient standards for admission,screening and protection of Myanmarasylum-seekers.The administration of justice in the camps isimproved, and refugees and asylum-seekers havefair and efficient access to judicial and legalremedies as well as traditional justicemechanisms; the Legal Assistance Centres in thecamps function effectively and objectively.Refugees in camps reach a higher level ofself-reliance by engaging in income-generationactivities, non-formal education and vocationaltraining.The prevention of, and response to sexual andgender-based violence is improved throughcommunity-based approaches.Refugee children, including unaccompanied andseparated minors, are monitored and protected,and undergo a best interests determinationprocess.Refugees have access to quality HIV and AIDSservices, and prevention and awareness-buildingactivities are implemented.Refugee women benefit from greater participationin camp management and related activities.Urban asylum-seekers have access to fair andefficient RSD.Urban refugees and asylum-seekers enjoy basicmedical care and referrals to local hospitals.Urban refugee children and adolescents haveaccess to primary, secondary, and higher forms ofeducation; adults avail of non-formal educationand vocational training.UNHCR is able to access and provide protectionto asylum-seekers and refugees held in detention.
252UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009
T  h   a i     l     a n d  
 
Strategy and activities
The strategy for Myanmar refugees is twofold: whilepursuing resettlement as the only durable solutionavailable for the time being, UNHCR will also try toalleviate the problems resulting from prolongedencampment. It will focus on improving its access to thecamps for newly arrived refugees in need of internationalprotection; enhancing the protection environment withinthe camps; and promoting self-reliance.The strategic use of resettlement has provided a solutionto the protracted situation in Thailand. The introductionof this large-scale resettlement programme has been alandmark development from which thousands ofrefugees have already benefited. UNHCR will continuewith a measured and controlled approach to groupresettlement.As urban refugees are not permitted to engage inemployment, UNHCR will continue to strengthen theirskills through vocational training, formal and informal
UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009253
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Planning figures
Type of population OriginJan 2008 Dec 2008 - Jan 2009 Dec 2009Total incountryOf whomassisted byUNHCR Total incountryOf whomassisted byUNHCR Total incountryOf whomassisted byUNHCR 
RefugeesMyanmar 124,000 124,000 112,480 112,480 102,330 102,330Various 1,720 1,700 1,900 1,900 2,000 2,000Asylum-seekers Myanmar 13,500 13,500 10,000 10,000 5,000 5,000Others of concern Various 750 - 830 - 910 -
Total 139,970 139,200 125,210 124,380 110,240 109,330
Some 140,000 refugees from Myanmar live in nine refugee camps in Thailand. Many have lived in camps for almost two decades.
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