UNHCR regrets deportation of 16 Lao Hmong from Thailand

Press Releases, 26 January 2007

26 January 2007

GENEVA The UN refugee agency learned with concern about Thailand's deportation to the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos) on Friday of 16 Lao Hmong who had not been screened to see if they needed international protection.

The 16 had been in detention in Nong Khai since 7 November, 2006.

"Any country obviously has the right to deport illegal migrants. However, this should be done within a framework which ensures that any individuals among them who may have protection concerns are screened in line with international standards," said UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller.

"We have consistently advocated with Thailand to put in place such a system and are ready to help the Thai authorities in any appropriate way to support them in managing this situation," Feller said.

Today's deportation has heightened UNHCR's concern over the fate of 153 recognised Lao Hmong refugees in detention in Nong Khai. UNHCR is still hoping for a favourable solution to their situation as resettlement arrangements with third countries are currently being worked out.

There are an estimated 7,000 Hmong in Phetchabun province. UNHCR does not have access to this mixed group, which has been in Thailand since about July 2005.

"We cannot keep silent where we witness persons, among whom may be asylum seekers, being forcibly returned without having their cases formally assessed. This is not in line with international standards," Feller added.

Friday's events highlight again the precarious situation of the Lao Hmong living in makeshift camps near Huay Nam Khao village in Phetchabun province near the Lao border. In December, the Thai and Laotian authorities reached a bilateral agreement to return them to Laos; more recently, the Thai government announced plans to have the army set up a temporary holding camp for them.




Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

UNHCR's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent this year's World Refugee Day with Karenni refugees from Myanmar. Some have been in exile in Thailand for 30 years, making this one of the longest-running refugee situations in the world.

On her fourth visit to the refugee camps in Thailand, Jolie met Baw Meh's family, three generations of refugees who have lived in Ban Mai Nai Soi camp since 1996.

The family told Jolie they fled Myanmar's Kayah state thinking they would return home shortly. Eighteen years later, they are still here. Baw Meh, 75, lost her husband last year. He died before he could fulfill his dream of returning home. Some of their family members have been resettled to third countries. Others have chosen to stay. Baw Meh has refused to go, preferring to stay close to her village.

Like many refugees along the border, her family is watching the reform process in Myanmar closely and mulling the prospect of eventual return. "After 30 years in exile, the best solution we can give these refugees is the right and power to choose their own way forward," said Jolie. "This is our chance to get it right, to break the vicious cycle of conflict and displacement once and for all."

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Over 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand in recent months. Most claim to be fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin state, Myanmar. The mainly ethnic Karen refugees say their houses and villages have been burned and civilians killed. Many were weak upon arrival, suffering from illnesses such as malaria, after a long, dangerous journey to the camps through heavily mined areas. The refugees have been arriving at government-run camps, mainly in the Mae Hong Son area in northern Thailand.

UNHCR is working with the Thai government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the new arrivals are admitted to the camps and provided with adequate shelter and protection. Shelter has been a major issue as the capacity in many refugee camps has been overwhelmed. In a breakthrough in mid-May, Thai authorities agreed to build proper houses for the new arrivals.

There are currently 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine border camps in Thailand, many of them have been there for up to 20 years.

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

There are more refugees and displaced people now than at any time since the Second World WarPlay video

There are more refugees and displaced people now than at any time since the Second World War

To help them, to know who they are, to give them support now and in the future UNHCR must use the most modern tools available. UNHCR plans to capture refugees' biometrics in up to 10 countries this year, and in all its operations by 2018.
Thailand: Nader, a saxophonist from Syria - World Refugee Day 2015Play video

Thailand: Nader, a saxophonist from Syria - World Refugee Day 2015

"Music has helped me in everything - morally, financially, even my manners." Nader is a third-generation refugee.
Thailand: Thang's Dilemma Play video

Thailand: Thang's Dilemma

Thang is a refugee in Thailand. He and his mother fled his village because he feared being forced to join an army that was killing his own people. No one chooses to be a refugee.