Urban Refugee Program

3111 (urban refugee kids downstairs 2 best)

Ahmadiyah refugee children in Bangkok

The Urban Refugee Program seeks alternatives to detention and pioneers a community education model for urban refugees.

In Thailand, there are approximately 5,000 urban refugees and asylum seekers living in urban areas (mostly in Bangkok). These are people escaping persecution from various countries throughout the region and beyond – e.g., Vietnam, North Korea, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Congo, etc. They are subject to arrest and detention by Thai authorities as Thailand still considers them as illegal aliens under domestic laws. Consequently, there are currently over 200 urban refugees and asylum seekers in the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. The conditions in the detention center are inhumane because it was designed to detain illegal aliens only for a short and temporary period. However, many detained refugees end up languishing in detention centers for a prolonged period of time, ranging from 2 years to over 10 in some cases, since a loop hole in the Thai law allows for indefinite immigration detention.

Through a bail-out fund that TCR established in May 2011, TCR has been bailing vulnerable urban refugees, particularly women and children, out of the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok. In certain cases, it has done so through collaboration with Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN). So far, TCR has managed to arrange for the release of nearly 120 urban refugees from the detention center.

Urban refugees and asylum seekers who manage to avoid arrests by immigration police find it extremely difficult to get by because they cannot find any legal work, and have to be in constant fear of being arrested. Their children lack education opportunity because the UN’s education program may not be easily accessible by most refugees, due to the cost and time of transportation, besides the risks of running into immigration police. Moreover, in the latest development, the UN is planning to cut down on  offering classes to urban refugees and asylum seekers. TCR sees this as a loss opportunity for refugee children who will miss out on education during the most crucial time in their lives. Therefore, our organization has pioneered a community-based education project in which small classrooms were set up inside the refugee community, and run by teachers who are refugees themselves.

We are very grateful to have been receiving warm support from various entities for offering to provide customized curricular for the classrooms as well as invaluable advice on classroom management, donation of classroom furniture and stationary, snacks for children, etc. We’d like to thank all our supporters and hope to expand the education model into more communities in the near future.