In a development welcomed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, thousands more previously undocumented stateless students across Thailand will have the opportunity to access health services through the country’s national healthcare system, including disease prevention, medical treatment and rehabilitation. These students have also received documentation and benefited from an improvement in their legal status, and as a result, new pathways have opened up to enable them to eventually resolve their statelessness.
On 30 March 2021 the Thai Cabinet approved the inclusion of the second group of over 5,000 students in the National Healthcare Fund for Persons with Legal Status Problems. As part of the process the students had been screened and provided with identity cards. This follows the earlier approval by the Thai Cabinet of the inclusion of the first group of more than 3,000 students in September 2020 and will allow these students to access government health facilities by covering the cost of health services they could otherwise not afford.
The National Healthcare Fund for Persons with Legal Status Problems was approved by the Thai Cabinet in 2010, following Thailand’s adoption in 2005 of a progressive nationality strategy to address statelessness. Inclusion of undocumented stateless students in the Fund was approved in principle in 2015.
“Thailand continues to demonstrate strong commitment to addressing statelessness through the adoption of key legislative measures,” said Mr. Giuseppe De Vincentiis, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand.
“The approval of this latest group of over 5,000 students represents the Royal Thai Government’s continued efforts to include marginalized and vulnerable groups such as stateless persons in its national healthcare system, representing another important step towards improving access to essential services, and also opening up pathways for further progress in addressing legal status issues and resolving statelessness.”
This development is also in line with the pledge to enhance social protection for stateless persons made by the Royal Thai Government in October 2019 at the High-Level Segment on Statelessness convened by UNHCR in Geneva, marking the mid-point of the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness, as well as contributing to Thailand’s ongoing efforts to reduce statelessness.
Thailand has demonstrated strong commitment to and been a regional leader in taking action to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect the rights of stateless persons. Following important reforms to Thailand’s nationality and civil registration laws, over 100,000 registered stateless persons have acquired Thai nationality since 2008.
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