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UNHCR encouraged by Thailand’s latest efforts to reduce statelessness

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BANGKOK, 29 December.– In a move welcomed by the UN Refugee Agency, some 80,000 stateless children and young adults in Thailand could benefit from a recent government resolution to reduce statelessness in the country.

Earlier this month, the Thai Cabinet approved a resolution on “Guidance and Measures to Address Legal Status Problems and Problems of Stateless Persons in Thailand”, which is pending official proclamation.

As explained by Mr. Grisada Boonrach, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, under this resolution children are eligible to apply for Thai nationality if: 1) They were born in Thailand to parents from ethnic minority groups, were registered by the Ministry of Interior and have lived in Thailand for not less than 15 years; or 2) They were born in Thailand to other groups of aliens and have graduated from university or the equivalent. If they have not graduated yet, the Ministry of the Interior shall examine the case on an individual basis.

Abandoned children whose parents are unknown can also apply if they are certified as such by the relevant agency under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and have lived in Thailand for not less than 10 years.

Eligible children can hand in their applications – together with supporting documents such as birth certificates, household or profile registrations, and ID cards showing their 13-digit identification number – at the district registration office in their area of domicile as recorded in civil registration.

“This recent resolution builds on measures announced in the past few years by expanding the scope of eligibility and clarifying the criteria and procedures involved,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand. “They show the Royal Thai Government’s strong political will to reduce statelessness among children.”

Thailand has endorsed UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 and its goal of achieving zero statelessness, becoming a leader among the "Group of Friends" of the Campaign.

“The international community welcomes the assurances given by the Thai government to pursue nationality solutions,” said Menikdiwela. “We look forward to strengthening our collaboration and working together with the Royal Thai Government to translate these important commitments into practical action and results.”

UNHCR has been working with the NGO Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA) to open service points in different schools in Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang and Mae Chan districts. There, stateless students and their families have been able to obtain nationality-related information and eventually lodge applications for birth registration, nationality, permanent residency and related civil status documentation.

The project has engaged government officials in the district levels, school principals, community leaders as well as local civil societies, who have also been working on the issue of statelessness. So far, ADRA has completed approximately 10,000 individual applications. In 2017, UNHCR and ADRA will enhance their community outreach strategy and continue supporting stateless populations to prepare and submit nationality applications.

UNHCR has been mandated by the General Assembly to help to reduce the incidence of statelessness, which affects an estimated 10 million people worldwide. In November 2014, it launched a Global Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024(#I Belong Campaign) by raising awareness on the plight of stateless people and offering a platform to support governments in reforming nationality legislation and adjusting policies aiming at reducing statelessness.

For more information, please contact UNHCR Thailand: thaba@unhcr.org