168 refugees, asylum seekers arrested in Nonthaburi

Nonthaburi authorities have arrested 168 refugees and asylum seekers from Vietnam and Cambodia, even though 154 of them are recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

On 28 August 2018, district officials, the military, local police and Immigration Police raided a house in Bang Yai District in Nonthaburi to arrest 130 Vietnamese and 38 Cambodians. The raid took place at dawn after the authorities received a report that the 168 were connected to human trafficking networks. 60 of those arrested are children. 

Local media have reported that the refugees are illegal migrants who were arrested for not having work permits. But an officer from a refugee rights organisation has confirmed to Prachatai that they are asylum seekers and that 154 out of 168 hold identity cards granted by the UNHCR. 

Most of them are ethnic minorities who are escaping persecution in their home countries due to land and religious conflicts. Some are in the process of obtaining refugee status.

According to the source, 34 out of the 38 arrested Cambodians are recognised by UNHCR. 12 are children, 8 of whom have UNHCR cards. 120 out of the 130 Vietnamese have the cards, and 43 are children, 40 with cards. 

The authorities will detain the Cambodians at Suan Phlu Immigration Bureau, Bangkok, and the Vietnamese refugees will be charged with illegal immigration. Prachatai will provide updates on this case.

According to the Jesuit Refugee Service, around 4,000 to 5,000 refugees who are recognised by the UNHCR are living in urban areas in Thailand. Around 3,000 other individuals have requested refugee status. Another 2,000 have either been denied refugee status or decided to live without a visa. In total, Thailand has over 10,000 urban refugees. 

The UNHCR cards of one of those arrested