HRW: Ad Hoc and Inadequate–Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

“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 Inadequate focuses 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 migrant–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”–P. [4] of cover.


Reference: Human Rights Watch’s report

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