Refugee returns to Myanmar continue to hinge on the political situation in Myanmar, along with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the predictability of the return process and the availability of other solutions.
In 2020, the number of arrests and people of concern in immigration detention decreased considerably, due in part to advances in the development of a national screening mechanism, as well as continued implementation of the memorandum of understanding on alternatives to detention for children. However, the Immigration Act still treats urban people of concern to UNHCR as illegal aliens.
There continues to be strong political will to resolve statelessness, in line with Thailand’s 2024 commitments to – i) facilitate stateless persons' access to civil registration services; and ii) adjust regulations for granting nationality and civil rights to cover target groups to access naturalization process equally and equitably. The easing of administrative hurdles at district level could lead to more reductions in statelessness.
In Viet Nam, efforts to reduce statelessness, combined with potential legal reform and the preparation for possible accession to the statelessness conventions, provide ground for more progress.
Thailand’s Education for All policy stipulates that all school-aged children can access education. UNHCR and partners support the enrolment of urban refugee children in public schools.
On the Thai-Myanmar border, UNHCR will continue to coordinate with the Ministry of Interior, IOM, Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees, Humanity and Inclusion, and the Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand and its member NGOs.
For urban and Rohingya people of concern, UNHCR will continue to work with the Government and NGOs to try to improve the protection space. The urban refugee and statelessness programmes are managed by implementing partners Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees and Adventist Development and Relief Agency, respectively.
In Viet Nam, UNHCR’s main partner is the Ministry of Justice, while in Cambodia it engages with the refugee department, as well as implementing partner Jesuit Refugee Service, on issues pertaining to refugees and asylum-seekers.
UNHCR will continue to engage with people of concern, as well as concerned UN agencies, key human rights and humanitarian NGOs, community-based organizations, and the diplomatic community. The Office will also continue to engage with the private sector to raise funds and mobilise other support.
The effective closure of Thailand’s borders through most of 2020 has heavily affected the tourism-dependent economy. Thailand is under an emergency decree due to the pandemic, which continues into 2021.
On the Thai-Myanmar border, delays in voluntary repatriation are anticipated, as are increased risks resulting from more stringent restrictions on freedom of movement, gender-based violence, substance abuse and child neglect.
The pandemic resulted in the loss of informal livelihood opportunities and significant challenges in meeting basic needs among people of concern living in urban areas.
In 2021, UNHCR will focus on:
- Pursuing and delivering multiple solutions for the refugee population in the nine border camps, as well as core mandate protection activities.
- Supporting the Government in its phased transition towards implementing the national screening mechanism for people of concern to UNHCR in urban areas, while improving the protection space with increased focus on community-based protection and promoting alternatives to detention.
- Contributing to the protection and reduction of stateless persons in Thailand, in line with pledges from the Government.
- Supporting the Viet Nam Government’s statelessness identification and reduction activities, as well as prevention of statelessness in Cambodia, by strengthening the country’s civil registration law and policy.
- Pursuing multiple solutions for Myanmar refugees, to substantially reduce the number of displaced persons during the next four years.