Thailand: UNHCR calls for release of detained Hmong refugees

Briefing Notes, 15 January 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 January 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is calling for the release of 149 Lao Hmong refugees held in Thailand's Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre since December, 2006. The group including many children has now spent 400 nights in detention, yet have not committed any crime. The refugees were rounded up for deportation in Bangkok on 17 November 2006. They were transferred on 8 December 2006 to the Nong Khai detention centre on the border with Laos, where they have been held since. UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, says there is no basis for the detention of these 149 people, who have been recognized as in need of international protection. They should be allowed to take up offers already made to leave Thailand for Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States.

UNHCR recognizes that efforts have been made by Thailand to improve somewhat the conditions in the detention centre. The people are now allowed out of their two cells for three hours a day. However, these measures do not go far enough and overall conditions still fall well short of international standards. No one should be detained for an indefinite period.

We are particularly concerned that 90 children, including five born in detention, are being held in these sub-standard conditions. They should not be locked up and should be getting a proper education.