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|2020 year-end results|
|7,979||stateless persons received counselling and assistance to prepare citizenship applications|
|2,853||vulnerable urban refugees were provided with cash assistance to help them survive increased challenges with meeting basic needs in the context of COVID-19|
|1,925||refugee children from Myanmar were registered and provided with birth certificates to facilitate their access to durable solutions|
|600||urban refugee children were supported to enroll in Thai primary and secondary schools|
|2021 planning figures|
|12,000||stateless persons will receive counselling and assistance to prepare citizenship applications|
|3,665||vulnerable urban refugees will be provided with cash assistance to help them survive|
|2,500||refugee children from Myanmar will be registered and given birth certificates to facilitate their access to durable solutions|
|2,000||refugees from Myanmar will be assisted to return home|
|870||urban refugee children will be supported to enroll in primary and secondary schools|
People of Concern
Operational contextBorder closures significantly impacted the Thai economy during 2020, with urban refugees and asylum-seekers facing increased challenges due to loss of informal livelihood opportunities. In the absence of a protective legal framework for urban people of concern, the Immigration Act still treated this group as illegal aliens in 2020. The Prime Minister’s regulation for the establishment of a national screening mechanism (NSM) to distinguish people who need international protection from economic migrants entered into force in June 2020, however its implementation was delayed due to COVID-19 and other factors.
Myanmar refugees faced increased protection risks due to more stringent restrictions on freedom of movement, while border closures halted voluntary returns.
There continued to be strong political will to resolve statelessness in Thailand, however the number of nationality acquisitions was lower than the Royal Thai Government target due to COVID-19. In Viet Nam, reductions continued, combined with potential legal reform and preparation for possible accession to the statelessness conventions.
Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic actively participated in the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children study on nationality and legal identity, which could provide opportunities for collaboration with UNHCR.
Population trendsThere are 91,803 refugees in the border camps, with reductions during 2020 due to 862 resettlement departures and inactivation of 1,400 spontaneous departures.
Contrary to previous years, there was a slight increase in the urban population from 5,253 to 5,263. The monthly new registrations rate was considerably lower in 2020, averaging 33 individuals per month compared to 50 persons per month in 2019 due to access to Thai territory being heavily restricted. In addition, some 150 Rohingya individuals were registered as people of concern to UNHCR.
While 7,515 individuals acquired nationality in 2020, the number of registered stateless persons increased from 474,888 to 480,549 due to reforms that widened the eligibility pool.
- In the context of COVID-19, UNHCR advocated full inclusion of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons in the Royal Thai Government’s national COVID-19 surveillance, response and planning activities. It also established inter-agency coordination groups for all three population groups, while ensuring continued protection monitoring, outreach and case management.
- UNHCR’s advocacy for expanded use of alternatives to detention, resulted in reduction in detention of urban asylum-seekers and refugees and an increase in those released on bail.
- UNHCR continued to engage with the Royal Thai Government on the NSM, facilitating six trainings of immigration staff and focusing on the development of specific tools.
- Through its partner, UNHCR in Thailand submitted 1,362 nationality applications of stateless persons.
- Whilst UNHCR was able to address some gaps through cash assistance, a shortfall in support to urban people of concern to allow them to meet some of their basic needs remains, which will not be fully addressed without either additional funding or the assumption of responsibility by other entities, including the Royal Thai Government.
- Resource constraints limited UNHCR’s ability to support work to address statelessness across Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam. The statelessness reduction project in Thailand remains limited to three districts of Chiang Rai.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)UNHCR Thailand has received over USD 8.5 million flexible funding which allowed UNHCR to respond to COVID-19-related needs in support of Royal Thai Government-led efforts. In the camps, UNHCR delivered three sets of 90,041 face masks to refugees, 114,240 sanitary napkins to 26,039 women of reproductive age and emergency care assistance to 4,377 extremely vulnerable individuals. Cash assistance was extended to 2,853 vulnerable refugees and their families in urban areas, while 2,260 care packages were distributed to vulnerable stateless persons and host communities in border provinces.
Working environmentWhile improvements to stability in southeastern Myanmar and improved predictability in the voluntary return process could potentially lead to an increase in the number of refugees expressing interest to voluntarily return to south-west Myanmar, the majority of refugees may still not be ready to return. Meanwhile, protracted encampment continues to give rise to protection concerns in the temporary shelters on the border with Myanmar.
In urban areas, the Immigration Act continues to treat people of concern as illegal aliens. However, anticipated developments with respect to key pledges made by the Prime Minister – including the establishment of a national screening mechanism – could potentially result in an improved protection environment and regularize, in some form, the stay of people of concern in Thailand.
There continues to be strong political will to resolve statelessness in line with Thailand’s 2024 commitments. The easing of administrative hurdles at district level could further accelerate the rate of reductions.
Under Thailand’s progressive “Education for All” policy, school-aged children regardless of their nationality and legal status, including urban refugee and asylum seeker children, are able to access education. UNHCR and partners have been working to facilitate the enrolment of refugee children into Thai public schools, including through intensive Thai language classes to support inclusion.
On the Thai-Myanmar border, UNHCR works in close partnerships with the Ministry of Interior, IOM, the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) and Humanity and Inclusion. Additionally, UNHCR has put in place coordination mechanisms with the Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT) and its member NGOs, as well as the refugees themselves and their elected representatives, elders and community leaders.
For urban and Rohingya people of concern, UNHCR works with key government partners and NGOs to preserve and enhance protection space. UNHCR’s implementing partner COERR manages the urban refugee programme. Additionally, UNHCR regularly engages with refugees and asylum-seekers, and other stakeholders, such as NGOs and UN agencies. Furthermore, The Office will continue to engage with the private sector to mobilise support for refugees and stateless persons both in Thailand and globally.
Key prioritiesIn 2020, UNHCR will pursue a range of multiple solutions to resolve the protracted situation on the Thai-Myanmar border, while continuing to deliver protection interventions for the most vulnerable. The Office will continue to support the Thai government in its efforts to establish a national screening mechanism and to seek alternatives to detention for people of concern. Furthermore, it will continue to support the Thai government in accelerating efforts to reduce statelessness, in line with recent pledges.
The expected results in 2020 include:
- The number of refugees residing in the temporary shelters on the Thai-Myanmar border will be reduced over the next four years as a result of the availability of additional solutions for this group.
- The protection environment for people of concern in urban areas will be improved, resulting in a lower risk of arrest/detention; significant reduction in reliance of resettlement as a protection tool; increased focus on community-based protection and enhanced access to opportunities for self-reliance.
- The nationality applications of the population registered as stateless in Thailand will continue, resulting in increased/accelerated reduction of statelessness.