Thailand + 3 more

Refugees in Thailand, February 2016

News and Press Release
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Facts & Figures

  • EU humanitarian aid since 1995: € 119.7 million to help refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border In 2016:

  • € 1.3 million in assistance to refugees living in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border In 2015:

  • € 2.1 million in assistance to refugees staying in camps

  • € 300 000 in assistance to Rohingya and Bangladeshi irregular migrants in Thailand and Indonesia

Key messages

  • More than 30 years on, the situation of refugees from Myanmar/Burma in Thailand has become one of the world's most protracted refugee crises, and there is a need to find durable solutions.

  • Since 1995, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has provided funding for humanitarian assistance in the refugee camps. Most recently, efforts have focused on primary health care and food assistance for the most vulnerable, as well as protection activities.

  • There is a need for better information to refugees on conditions for their potential return, which should be strictly voluntary.

  • Since 2013, ECHO has helped Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals under detention in Thailand. After the boatpeople crisis of May 2015, the EU humanitarian assistance was extended to the entire region, particularly Indonesia.

Humanitarian situation and needs

The Thai government is not signatory to the UN Refugee Convention but has allowed refugees from Myanmar/Burma (currently over 106 000) to stay in nine camps (temporary shelters) along the border between the two countries.

Over the past few years, Rohingya and Bangladeshi men, women and children fleeing violence and difficult conditions in Myanmar/Burma and Bangladesh, have been intercepted by Thai authorities en route to Malaysia and kept in Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs) and social shelters in Thailand. This exodus has given rise to ruthless human trafficking networks, triggering Thai authorities to launch a crackdown on smuggling rings in 2015. This resulted in what came to be known as the “boatpeople crisis in the Andaman Sea”, which saw thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea without food or water after the traffickers abandoned the ships, fearing arrest if they came to shore. Disembarkations were eventually allowed in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia in May-June. Since then, the number of arrivals in the region has significantly decreased.

Major challenges

Despite a large scale resettlement programme (almost 103 000 individuals resettled in third countries since 2005), the major challenge is still to find durable and sustainable solutions for the remaining refugee population in Thailand. In addition, stranded Rohingya migrants in shelters and IDCs remain a growing concern due to their stateless status.