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Sri Lankan Refugee Families in Jail in Bangkok

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The 25th of July 2007 We, the signatories of this petition, have been informed about the imprisonment, in Thailand, of Sri Lankan people (and a few Nepalese people) who fled the fighting and insecurity that prevail in their country to ask for the international protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The situation of these people is described below: It concerns 92 Sri Lankan and 9 Nepalese people including 31 young children, 22 imprisoned children are less than 10 year old, 14 are less than 6 years old, 62 had obtained refugee status, 39 are asylum seekers. A total of 15 families are currently imprisoned. Some of the families with children have already been detained for several months including one small girl aged 6, imprisoned with her parents since January 2007. Some other children, aged 14, 8, 3, 2, and 1 year have also been imprisoned since March 2007. All of them have refugee status but have spent more than 3 months in detention without any resolution that would allow them to be resettled in a country that guaranteeing both their human and children\'s rights. There has been a steady increase in arrests since the beginning of July 2007. As an example, 28 Sri Lankan and 6 Nepalese people living in the same block of flats were arrested on the 2nd of July, including 18 children. This massive arrest involving 17 refugees and 17 asylum seekers illustrates how precarious the status of refugees is in Thailand As: Thailand did not ratify the Geneva Convention relating to refugees rights. Therefore, people asking for international protection from UNHCR, whether asylum seekers or refugees, are considered by Thai authorities as illegal immigrants and risk an undetermined period of detention. The collective arrests are increasing, including more and more families with young children and pregnant women. Several months of detention for these families, has not yet resulted in their resettlement to a third country that can guarantee to respect their basic human rights. The living conditions in the detention center do not allow the harmonious development of imprisoned children and adults, because of overpopulated cells, bad hygiene conditions, shortages of food and water and difficulties accessing basic health care. In addition the nonexistent of future prospects for families who are imprisoned 24 hours a day. The last visit UNHCR made to the detainees, according to them, was on the 11th of April 200Some discussion between Sri Lankan authorities and Thai immigration police during the arrests on the 2nd of July led us to believe that these people could be forced to return to Sri Lanka, contrary to the non- refoulement principle. This principle has been violated by the Thai authorities recently when they forced Laotian people to return. Human Rights Organizations recently told they have still not received any news of them. We, the signatories of this petition, therefore want to share with you our very deep concern about the future of these families, this concern relates as much to their living conditions in the detention center as to the fact that there does not seem to be any real prospect for them. Undoubtedly, there is a risk they may be forced to return to Sri Lanka, making the detention far more difficult, dangerous and unbearable. Consequently, We, the signatories of this petition, request UNHCR to exercise the mandate they were entrusted with, on our behalf, by the United Nations, namely to ensure the protection and security of refugees and asylum seekers. We, the signatories of this petition, request UNHCR to consider these detained people as emergency cases and to implement the emergency measures that are described in the country chapters for resettlement of numerous third countries, thereby allow their emergency resettlement in one of these countries, We, the signatories of this petition, request UNHCR to approach the Thai government to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is applied for these people whose lives are endangered in their native country. We, the signatories of this petition, request UNHCR to receive a delegation in Geneva headquarters in order to discuss the situation of these families and enable UNHCR to report progress of the procedures that have been engaged to protect and resettle these families in third countries and of their results.




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