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Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-182-2010
THAILAND: Officials detain babies, children and pregnant women among asylum seekers
The Asian Human Rights Commission has obtained information that immigration authorities have taken into custody at least 85 persons from Pakistan who are seeking asylum. The group includes babies, small children, pregnant women, and the sick and elderly. The persons have registered with the United Nations for asylum and so far 17 have reportedly been officially recognized as refugees. No reason has been given for their detention; however, it comes at a time that authorities in Thailand are reportedly targeting asylum seekers for forced repatriation, especially to countries in South Asia.
On 14 December 2010, immigration authorities in Thailand raided the residences of a group of at least 85 persons from Pakistan who have been registered as asylum seekers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok, 17 of whom have reportedly had their applications accepted and have been granted refugee status, and took them into custody at the immigration detention facilities in Bangkok.
The group includes at least 38 women and girls, among whom there is at least one pregnant woman. It also includes at least 38 children, including 26 aged under 10 years, among them a number of babies. And it includes a 60-year old with high blood pressure, and a 53-year old with a heart condition.
* NI number means UNHCR ID No.
According to the information that the AHRC has received, the raid was coordinated across a number of locations near Bangkok where the persons had been residing. Despite this, the immigration authorities did not explain why they were taking the group into custody. The raid comes at a time that authorities in Thailand are reportedly hunting for and forcibly repatriating asylum seekers from South Asia, including from Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The detention centre where the group is being held is notoriously overcrowded and unhygienic. According to a recent visitor to the facility, the detainees are being held like “fish in a can” and are not even able to all sit down at the same time.
The members of the group for whom this appeal is being issued are Ahmadiyya Muslims who have sought asylum on the basis that they face religious persecution in Pakistan. Since they applied for asylum in Bangkok they are reported to be living in very difficult conditions, lacking any sources of income and surviving on assistance that was mainly provided by the Jesuit Refugee Service. The people had reportedly been living peaceably, awaiting the outcomes of their applications for asylum, and their detention while the process is ongoing is completely unjustified.
Please write to the persons listed below to call for the immediate release of these persons from custody and the respect of their right to seek asylum in Thailand and complete the process that they have begun with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Please be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia concerning these detainees.
THAILAND: Immigration Police detain babies, small children and women among group of registered asylum seekers and recognized refugees
Details of victims: At least 85 asylum seekers of Pakistani origin, a list of names and details posted online at: link
Details of alleged perpetrators: Immigration Police Division, Royal Thai Police
Date of incident: 14 December 2010 to present
I am writing to express my alarm at information I have received that Thai Immigration Police have taken into custody at least 85 persons of Pakistani origin who have fled to and have been staying in Bangkok for the purpose only of obtaining asylum and resettlement in third countries, among whom there are many women, small children and infirm people.
According to this information, on 14 December 2010, immigration authorities in Thailand raided the residences of persons from Pakistan who have been registered as asylum seekers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok, 17 of whom have reportedly had their applications accepted, and have been granted refugee status, and took them into custody at the Immigration Detention Centre at Suanphlu in Bangkok.
The group reportedly includes at least 38 women and girls, among whom there is at least one pregnant woman who is expecting to give birth to her child. It includes 38 children, including 26 aged under 10 years, among them a number of babies. It also includes a 60-year old with high blood pressure, and a 53-year old with a heart condition.
I am aware that the conditions in the detention centre are under normal conditions overcrowded and unhygienic. According to the report of one person who visited the facility recently, detainees are staying like “fish in a can”, and there is not even enough room for everyone to sit at the same time, let alone to lie down or move about at all.
I am appalled to hear that children and young women especially are being held in such circumstances, and am aware that aside from this group there are other women and children being held in the atrocious conditions at this facility: according to a report by a recent visitor to the detention centre, there are at least five women in advanced stages of pregnancy, from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, locked up there at present.
The raids on the residences of the asylum seekers at four locations, namely Prueksa 9, 11 and 12, Klong Sam, Prathumthani; and Sapanmai, Jaralsanitwong and Intamara in Bangkok were coordinated and planned, as the immigration personnel brought enough vehicles to take away all the persons. Despite this, the officials reportedly did not explain why they were taking the group into custody. As the asylum seekers had been staying peaceably, awaiting the outcome of their applications, the only conclusion to be had is that this is part of a programme being carried out by the authorities in Thailand against asylum seekers and refugees.
In light of the above, I call for the immediate release of these persons and for them to be allowed to remain in Thailand pending the outcomes of their applications for asylum. I call for appropriate medical treatment to be given to the ill and pregnant among them, and for the concerned authorities to take other measures as necessary for their security and wellbeing.
In this regard I draw the attention of the government of Thailand to its legally-binding obligations under international treaties, specifically under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture, both of which it has joined voluntarily. Under article 9 of the ICCPR, it is prohibited for the authorities in Thailand to detain anyone arbitrarily, and anyone who is detained has a legal right to be informed of the reasons and to challenge their detention in a court of law. Furthermore, under article 10 of the same treaty, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Finally, the government would be aware that under article 3 of the Convention against Torture, it is prohibited from forcibly repatriating any person to a country where he or she is in danger of being subjected to torture; therefore, it is incumbent upon the authorities in Thailand to ensure that where any persons among those seeking asylum have legitimate reason to fear that they would be subject to torture if repatriated, the appropriate steps be taken to make sure that they are not under any circumstances forced to go back to their country of origin.
1. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
2. Mr. Chaowarat Chanweerakul
3. Mr. Peeraphan Saleeratwipak
4. Mr. Kasit Piromya
5. Mr. Jullasingha Wasantasingha
6. Pol. Gen. Wichean Potephosree
Urgent Appeals Programme