Stateless family released from Immigration Detention Centre

Today , two stateless children and their family were released from the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Bangkok after having been detained for more than 1 year and 6 months.
The children and their family arrived in Thailand to seek asylum in June, 2008, but they were arrested and detained in May, 2010. In order to protect and promote rights of the children and their family, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC) took initiatives and cooperated with Immigration Department and local civil society to release them from Immigration Detention Centre.

The family was released on January 27, 9 AM from the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Suan Phlu. A press conference was held from 10:30 – 11:30 AM at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) on the same day.
Dr. Amara Pongsapich, the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission in Thailand (NHRC), Wisa Benjamano, the National Human Rights Commissioner, Wiboon Bangthamai, Police Lt.Gen. Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, Karen Pennock, Head of St. Andrews International School, Sathorn Campus, Annie Hansen, the Director of Admissions and Marketing of St. Andrews International School and Veerawit Tianchainan, Founder and Executive Director of Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) participated in the press conference.
During the press conference, Cognita announced granting of scholarship worth of 1 million baht for the children to attend St. Andrews International School during their entire stay in Thailand upon the release. Ms Karen Pennock, Head of St Andrews International School, Sathorn Campus, handed over the scholarships to the children.
The release was a great achievement by the NHRC's initiative in launching a national campaign against the detention of children and the cooperation with the Immigration Department and TCR. The bailout of the refuges and stateless people was possible through the help of TCR's Refugee and Stateless Persons Freedom Fund.
The fund was established in May 2011 in order to bail vulnerable refugees, in particular, children, women and sick persons from the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok. Then upon a request from the NHRC, TCR expanded the fund to cover stateless children and their family. The family was the first group of stateless persons released from detention through the TCR Refugee and Stateless Persons Freedom Fund.
The conditions in the detention center have been variously reported as extremely inhumane. Cells are overcrowded with no proper sanitation and not enough space. Among the detained are also young children, women and unaccompanied minors.
Many of the detained are refugees who have been officially recognized by the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons are governed by the same Immigration Act and as such considered to be illegal aliens. It is often a situation of despair as the only way out of it is resettlement to a third country or return back to their country of origin.
On 6 June 2011 for the first time in Thai history 94 refugees and 2 asylum seekers were released on bail by the cooperation of Thai government agencies and Thai Civil Society. It was for the first time that such a large group of refugees and asylum seekers could live lawfully in Thailand while waiting for resettlement to third countries. Their lawful bail is administered under the Article 54 of the Immigration Act B.E.2522 in Thailand and their release was extensively covered by international and local media. The release received applauds by the international community, embassies and UN agencies.
In January 2012, another historic event occurred thanks to the cooperation between NHRC, the Immigration Department and local civil society engagement by TCR. The first group of stateless children and their family was release from immigration detention.
The release represents a historic development as it is the first time ever, stateless children and their family were released. After the release, the children will be accommodated in children-friendly facilities and have access to formal education system which will allow them to develop their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. The release also represents Thailand's latest efforts to promote and protect human rights of stateless children in compliance with its fundamental obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and to taking actions following recommendations to the Royal Thai Government (RTG) at the Panel Discussion on Thailand's Universal Periodic Review held on 5 October, 2011 in Geneva.
The NHRC established two Sub-Committees, A Sub-Committee on Policy Implementation on Children, Women, Elder persons, Disabled persons and Equality of people and a Sub-Committee on Civil and Political Rights. The two Sub-Committees act as mechanisms 1) to protect and promote the respect for human rights domestically and internationally, 2) to propose the revision of laws, rules or regulations, and policy recommendations for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and cooperating and coordinating with government agencies, NGOs and other human rights organizations and 3) to propose signing international human rights Conventions to the Thai Parliament and the Royal Thai Government (RTG) and 4) to examine claims of human rights violations in Immigration Detention Centers in Thailand. Currently, National Human Rights Commission is working on recommendations to amend the Immigration Act BE 2522.
Building on the momentum, TCR is advocating for two significant legal reforms. TCR is pushing for the Amendment of the Immigration Act particularly sections regarding arrest and detention of asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless children and their families. TCR also launched a campaign for the Draft Bill on Domestic Legislation for refugees in Thailand. The proposed Bill would provide the very first attempt to establish a national legal framework to protect refugees in Thailand.
The minimum of 10,000 signatures need to be collected from Thai citizens for the draft bill to get tabled at parliament.
About TCR:
The Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) is the first and only registered Thai organization with the mission to protect and promote the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons in Thailand. We believe that Thai civil society organizations are better positioned to understand the specific local contexts and to urge the government to bring in meaningful changes in migration policies in good coordination with the international community. Our mission is to provide a strategic shift in refugee protection which will result in more sustainable solutions for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons in Thailand.Asian tribune

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