Current Situation and Achievements to date
There is a strong political will by the Royal Thai Government (RTG) to address the situation of statelessness both domestically and as a regional leadership example, as well as strong engagement with UNHCR especially in the new context of UNHCR’s Campaign to End Statelessness. Underscoring this will, after several years of not releasing official figures, and in connection with UNHCR’s advocacy, RTG announced in late 2015 that the official figure was 443,862, with almost 19,000 people having received nationality since end 2012. In 2014, UNHCR launched a pilot project for the reduction of statelessness implemented by the Bureau of Registration Administration (BoRA) under the Department of Provincial Administration (DoPA), supporting mobile teams to process applications in remote areas. Through direct implementation, UNHCR also recruited 20 Community Statelessness Workers deployed to districts with a high prevalence of statelessness to sensitize stateless people and assist in preparing nationality applications. While the Mobile Team project came to an end (although the equipment and capacity remained with DoPA to be utilized going forward), UNHCR with the support of SFS launched another Pilot Project in the last quarter of 2015 to establish in-school Service Centers, with associated awareness raising, capacity building and direct support for vulnerable people as key components. Ten service centers were established with the additional SFS funding. UNHCR will be able to expand this project with ADRA to 12 schools in 2016. UNHCR also contributed to a UNCT collective effort to provide suggested Constitutional provisions relevant to Agency mandates in the context of the Thai Constitutional Reform Process. UNHCR focused on the nationality provisions. In June/July 2015, the operation distributed approximately 7,500 copies of a joint BoRA/UNHCR Handbook on Nationality and Civil Registration, which was shipped to 2,581 civil registration units across the county, representing a 100 per cent outreach. This initiative was highly welcomed by government counterparts and set an example for future measures. The additional funding received in 2015 also enabled the operation to engage into a closer interaction with NGOs and grassroots level initiatives, as well as with district hospitals, schools and the territorial administrations, which led to increased institutional knowledge of the dynamics surrounding the nationality application system and the complexity of the statelessness situation in Thailand.
Protection and Solutions Strategy (comprehensive)
In operationalizing and upscaling UNHCR’s statelessness response in the context of Thailand’s Strategy and the High Commissioner’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness, UNHCR will continue to closely coordinate with the RTG at District, Provincial and National levels. In line with the new Multi-year Strategy, UNHCR’s shared goal with the RTG is a 11 per cent year on year reduction in the number of registered stateless people (50 per cent in five years), although the RTG has positively expressed a desire to do even more. UNHCR will enhance resource mobilization and, if successful, use the funding for additional activities including expansion of the service centers and/or enhancement of the mobile teams. In these respects, given the probability that SFS funding will not be available, UNHCR will increasingly seek to include the private sector in activities related to Statelessness both for awareness and fundraising. Meanwhile, starting in 2016, UNHCR will mobilize more direct implementation by the field offices, especially in Mae Sot and Mae Hong Son, which can be increased as voluntary repatriation activities decline. UNHCR will continue leading advocacy and joint humanitarian efforts for the further prevention and reduction of statelessness in the country, in particular through assessment and application of Permanent Residence provisions of the Thai law. UNHCR will similarly advocate for the protection of stateless people through national mechanisms that exist in cooperation with partners and other stakeholders. UNHCR continues to support the RTG in delivering systematically on its statelessness-related pledges notably to consider, where appropriate, further amendment of the Nationality Act as well as provide greater access to birth registration to build on Thailand's progress in reducing vulnerability to statelessness. In parallel, through direct implementation, UNHCR will engage in a partnership with local NGOs to create peer-support networks within communities with a high prevalence of statelessness, which could assist stateless people in completing their applications and preparing corresponding supporting documents. The legislative reform process resulting in specific amendments to the current legislative framework will require time, strategic partnerships, sustained advocacy and monitoring. This multi-year endeavour is expected to last for the next few years, during which UNHCR will provide support, capacity building and know-how, until the pledges made at the ministerial meeting in 2011 are materialized.
UNHCR has selected the following objectives for prioritization: 1) Law policy developed strengthened; 2) Individual Legal Assistance provided; 3) Coordination partnership strengthened; and 4) Resource Mobilization. These are based both on the priority attached by the Office to the High Commissioner’s Global Campaign (prioritized through the Office’s Multi-Year Strategy) and informed by the recommendations of the statelessness gap analysis that the Office undertook in 2011/2012 and stakeholder mapping, as well as the various assessment missions undertaken in 2015/16, utilizing UNHCR’s ‘Statelessness: An Analytical Framework for Prevention, Reduction and Protection’ as a framework. Meanwhile, at a minimum, and also to maintain the current broad-based goodwill generated through UNHCR/RTG collaboration (which has positive impacts well beyond the issue of Statelessness), it is imperative that full funding for the continuation of the 2016 ADRA be included in the 2017 OL, ensuring the sustainability of the Project and its impact. people2016 staffing must, likewise be prioritized. In conclusion, prioritized resources will not allow UNHCR to meet the global objectives to contribute to a decrease of the number of stateless people by more than half in the next five years (2017-2021). Prioritized funds will only enable UNHCR to manage up to 15 service centers simultaneously and to submit 15,000 nationality applications annually.
By December 2017, the total registered stateless population was 486,440, with over 40,000 people having acquired nationality since 2012 – 10,654 countrywide in 2017 alone. Of the total figure, 100,545 stateless persons are registered in Chiang Rai province, where UNHCR and its partner Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) implement the Statelessness Reduction and Community Sensitization project. Fourteen service points where ADRA provides legal counselling and assists stateless persons with nationality related procedures were fully operational during the reporting period, targeting activities in 28 schools and 43 communities through three districts. Given the increased caseload, UNHCR has designed a suitable web-based software to manage individual cases more efficiently. The database has proven to be an important and useful investment not only in terms of having a proper case management system, but also in generating accurate statistical reports and overall performance monitoring. Legal counselling sessions were provided to 15,584 individuals and 2,163 nationality applications were submitted for district/provincial level approval, among 13,660 applications prepared. Similarly, in 2017, 659 cases assisted (340 females and 319 males) were granted nationality, which was 59 per cent higher than last year. Despite the project reaching 91 per cent of the agreed target in terms of applications prepared, thanks to the database –which is progressively becoming more comprehensive - UNHCR found that only 16 per cent of these applications were actually ready for submission. On further analysis, it was found that the lack of evidence to support an application, the absence of streamlined administrative procedures, and the continuing need to strengthen project staff’s legal skills, are the main reasons for such a low completion rate. Consequently, UNHCR and ADRA will reorient the strategy in 2018, focusing on completion of the applications previously opened. Community outreach was achieved through awareness raising and trainings, with the participation of 7,278 stateless students and villagers. UNHCR continued to strengthen interaction with government counterparts and civil society. In particular, ADRA is now part of the Legal Status Network in Chiang Rai, whose members participate in a Steering Committee in Mae Chan District and facilitate a screening process for undocumented students, resulting in the increased number of submissions. Moreover, UNHCR - in collaboration with the Bureau of Registration Administration (BoRA) – organized three “Workshops on Legal Status and Nationality”, which took place in Chiang Mai (28-30 August), Chiang Rai (4-6 September) and Kanchanaburi (27-29 November) provinces, where high numbers of stateless populations are registered. The content included nationality legislation, implementation challenges, and also an open session for both government officials and participating NGOs. The training sessions were attended by 311 government officials involved in nationality procedures. In terms of policy and considering that Thailand had endorsed UNHCR’s zero statelessness goal by 2024, the Country Office continues to enhance its relationship with the RTG acknowledge its efforts to reduce statelessness. At the same time, UNHCR has expressed concern on the current rate of acquisitions (10,654 were granted in 2017) compared to the official figures of registered stateless people in the country (486,440), which would make it difficult to reach the zero-statelessness target by 2024. In this respect, it continues to urge the authorities to adopt streamlined district-level procedures, reduce/waive fees, revise rules of evidence and provide regular refresher training sessions to district and province officials on the policy and procedures. A study commissioned by UNHCR and produced by Chiang Mai University is expected in March 2018 and will provide recommendations on how these bottlenecks could be eased. Given that Thailand remains highly committed to addressing the entire stateless population by 2024, UNHCR will continue to support and accompany the RTG in their decisive efforts to provide nationality solutions, which remains a model in the region.
With 486,440 people registered as stateless, the biggest unmet need remains enhanced access to efficient processing and adjudication of applications, allowing greater access to public services and freedom of movement, employment and other fundamental rights. The Community Sensitization and Statelessness Reduction Project implemented by the NGO partner – ADRA – in three districts of Chiang Rai province is scalable as resources become available; but the project is not designed to replace, but rather to reinforce, government processes.
Key Performance Targets
|Indicator||Target||Result (End Year)|
|# of events, workshops and seminars organized||70||69|
|# of persons with undetermined nationality assisted with confirmation of nationality||20,000||13,660|