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Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers-HRW Report -english

Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers-HRW Report -english

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Published by Jutta Pflueg
Ad Hoc and Inadequate
Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
This 143-page report finds that Thai refugee policies are not grounded in law and cause refugees of all nationalities to be exploited and unnecessarily detained and deported. The report focuses on the plight of Burmese refugees, the largest current refugee group in Thailand. It examines treatment and conditions of both Burmese refugees inside the camps on the Thai-Burma border and Burmese outside the camps, who are not officially recognized as refugees. The report also looks at the impact of political changes in Burma on the prospects for repatriation and the obstacles to resolving this protracted refugee situation.
Ad Hoc and Inadequate
Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
This 143-page report finds that Thai refugee policies are not grounded in law and cause refugees of all nationalities to be exploited and unnecessarily detained and deported. The report focuses on the plight of Burmese refugees, the largest current refugee group in Thailand. It examines treatment and conditions of both Burmese refugees inside the camps on the Thai-Burma border and Burmese outside the camps, who are not officially recognized as refugees. The report also looks at the impact of political changes in Burma on the prospects for repatriation and the obstacles to resolving this protracted refugee situation.

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Published by: Jutta Pflueg on Sep 13, 2012
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05/13/2014

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This report was researched and written by Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human

Rights Watch, and Adam Saltsman, a consultant to Human Rights Watch. Phil Robertson,

deputy Asia director, edited the report and conducted supplemental field research. David

Mathieson, senior Burma researcher, also provided comments and supplemental research.

Senior Thailand researcher Sunai Phasuk, senior children’s rights researcher Bede

Shepard, and women’s rights researcher Aruna Kashyap provided additional comments.

The report was also edited by Tom Porteous, deputy program director. James Ross, legal

and policy director, provided legal review. Additional editorial and research assistance

was provided by Valerie Kirkpatrick, Palmer Lawrence, and Yukino Kawabata of the

Refugee Program. Grace Choi of the Program Office provided production assistance.

UNHCR and NGO representatives and legal service providers in Thailand provided

comments to earlier drafts, which are reflected in the final report. Responsibility for the

report’s contents remains with Human Rights Watch.

We thank UNHCR for their openness and help, as well as many NGOs, including the Arakan

Project, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), Asylum Access, Asia-Pacific

Refugee Rights Network, Back Pack Health Worker Team, International Rescue Committee,

Jesuit Refugee Service, Karen Women Organization, SOS Boat People, Thai-Burma Border

Consortium, and the Thai Committee for Refugees. Finally, we thank all of the refugees,

asylum seekers, and migrants who spoke with us in Thailand and Burma.

hrw.org

Burmese refugees at the Mae La refugee camp
near Mae Sot, Thailand, one of nine refugee
camps along the Thai-Burma border, June 2012.

© 2012 Reuters

Thailand has hosted millions of refugees over the course of more than three decades, yet its refugee policies remain
fragmented, unpredictable, inadequate, and ad hoc, leaving refugees unnecessarily vulnerable to arbitrary and abusive
treatment. All refugee groups in Thailand strive for survival in a country without a refugee policy grounded in law, where asylum
seekers face differing standards and procedures depending on their nationality and abuses by Thai officials go unpunished.

Ad Hoc and Inadequatefocuses on the plight of Burmese refugees, the largest current refugee group in Thailand. It examines
the lives both of Burmese refugees inside the camps on the Thai-Burma border and of Burmese asylum seekers living outside
of the camps, who are not officially recognized as refugees. Regardless of their nationality and whether they obtain refugee
status from the United Nations refugee agency, refugees in Thailand are not allowed to work. Urban refugees have little
protection against arrest, and often are compelled to pay bribes to avoid immigration detention. Irregular migrants—including
refugees—who are unable to pay fines or bribes are likely to be detained, sometimes for years.

Political changes in Burma since 2011 have raised the prospect that the protracted Burmese refugee situation could have an end
in sight. However, enormous obstacles remain to a safe return and repatriation of refugees from the border camps and
uncertainty among refugees about their prospects for repatriation prevails.

Human Rights Watch urges Thailand to consider an alternative to its current refugee policy, one that would provide all asylum
seekers an opportunity to have their claims for asylum heard fairly and would respect the rights of refugees to freedom of
movement and to work. Such a policy would contribute to the rule of law in Thailand and reduce opportunities for corruption
and exploitation.

Ad Hoc and Inadequate

Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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