The COVID-19 outbreak started in Thailand in midJanuary 2020. The pandemic has had a significant impact on all sectors of Thai society, including refugees and asylum-seekers. In the urban context,
UNHCR has been working with a range of partners, including Asylum Access Thailand (AAT), the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR), HOST international, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Tzu Chi Foundation and UNICEF to ensure that the protection needs of urban refugees and asylum-seekers are met and thereby support the Royal Thai Government (RTG) in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having observed increased levels of vulnerability relating to restrictions on movement, loss of livelihood opportunities and access to healthcare, these organisations, led by UNHCR, carried out a multi-sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) to strengthen understanding of the situation of this oftentimes hidden population. This focused on a range of areas, including: COVID-19 knowledge, experience, behaviour and norms, health, education, employment and access to basic necessities. The findings, outlined below, provide a stronger evidence base from which to design protection and programme interventions.
Since May 2016, UNHCR, through its implementing partner, COERR, has been using multi-purpose cashbased interventions (CBI) to provide protection,assistance and services to the most vulnerable refugees in the urban context. The number of urban refugees approaching UNHCR and COERR for financial support has more than doubled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that the financial needs of the urban refugee population will grow as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt. To ensure that UNHCR’s multipurpose CBI framework for urban refugees in Thailand is as effective as possible, a Post-distribution Monitoring (PDM) exercise was conducted simultaneously with the RNA. PDM is a mechanism to collect and understand refugees' feedback on the quality, sufficiency, utilization and effectiveness of the assistance - in this case cash assistance - provided to them by UNHCR. The findings of the PDM will support assessment of the impact of CBI for urban refugees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the appropriateness of funding levels, distribution modalities and the use of cash to support refugees.
The report provides an overview of findings from the RNA and PDM exercise and proposes a series of recommendations to strengthen efforts by UNHCR, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the RTG to better support refugees and asylum-seekers during this unprecedented and particularly challenging time.