06 Jun 2013 14:00
Thailand is a main destination for refugees in South and South East Asia. Thousands of immigrants cross its borders every year for economic reasons but also in search of protection from persecution or from the conflicts that ravage their own countries. They are refugees, people who leave their countries of origin fearing harm for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
According to UNHCR data, Thailand hosts more than 85 000 refugees (as registered by the UNHCR) and 1200 asylum seekers (waiting for their recognition). Most of these people are Burmese nationals living in refugee camps located alongside the Thailand-Myanmar border (Burma). Nevertheless, as Thailand has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees from other nationalities that cannot live inside camps are considered as illegal immigrants and face imprisonment and abuse from Thai authorities. Despite this, many refugees choose Thailand for logistical reasons; many of them come from Pakistan and Sri Lanka and it is easy for them to obtain a tourist visa to Thailand.
Women are among the most vunerable refugees. Many of them have suffered sexual abuse and torture in their countries of origin and, according to the UNHCR, are more likely to be subject to sexual violence and trafficking after fleeing. For single-mother refugees, the burden is even heavier as they have to look after the whole family alone. As illegal migrants in Thailand, they cannot find a job or get any income legally. Once recognized by UNHCR as refugees, they received an allowance that ranges from 2000 to 3.800 baths (64 to 122 USD), amount that refugees consider insufficient to meet their most basic needs.