Give Rohingya more time, say aid groups

msa
By July 4, 2013 09:10

Give Rohingya more time, say aid groups

Govt urged to extend 6-month help deadline

Published: 4 Jul 2013 at 00.00

Newspaper section: News (Bangkok Post)

PHANGNGA- Humanitarian agencies are appealing for the government to extend its six-month period of protection offered to more than 2,000 displaced Rohingya. The deal is due to expire in three weeks.

A List of Rohingya Refugees in Thailand

Muslim humanitarian groups helping to care for the Rohingya say four of the migrants have already died in the shelters. A dozen others have fled the holding areas and
five have filed lawsuits for trafficking and rape charges.

Most of the Muslim Rohingya sailed from Bangladesh and Myanmar where they faced persecution, arriving on Thai shores since mid-January.
Under international pressure, the government agreed to care for the Rohingya for six months. The idea was for countries in the region to help find ways for the Rohingya
to be safely repatriated or resettled in third countries.

That pledge to provide shelter ends on July 26.

During the past six months, however, the government has provided no clear legal or policy support to care for the displaced people.

Immigration authorities chose to segregate the Rohingya and place the men in detention facilities scattered around the country, from the southernmost one in Padang
Besar to Rayong in the East and Ubon Ratchathani in the Northeast.

With the men segregated, many families were split up. The separation was a cause of trauma for some women, while the yearning to reunite with their families opened
up opportunities for them to be exploited.

Some of the detainees sneaked out or fled the shelters altogether (see table).

Humanitarian agencies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), local Muslim
communities and the National Human Rights Commission have provided the displaced Rohingya with food and other forms of support.

Still, those under the care of shelters operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security have been vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers.

Even though immigration detention centres and state-run shelters operate under standard guidelines, flexibility has often been the norm as officials constantly run into a lack of interpreters. Some shelter operators reportedly receive translation assistance from people involved with human trafficking rings.

A case in point is the Thai police officer in Phangnga who was recently charged with trafficking a Rohingya refugee and her children, while his alleged accomplice, who
served as a translator at the shelter, was charged with rape.

Officials caring for Rohingya refugees have expressed their frustration. They have to cope with communication problems and uncertainty about the time-frame of the
migrants’ detention.

“They are not criminals. How can we keep them under 24-hour surveillance,” an official at a shelter in the South said.

Immigration centres are also ill-equipped to house refugees for long periods of time.

“We are seeking approval to build a fence so they [the detainees] can exercise or play soccer in the open compound. We do not know when the government will come up
with a firm idea of where to house them, said the official from one of the immigration centres in Songkhla.”

Despite Diplomatic Sources saying several countries have pledged to contribute cast if Thailnad builds one stop detention facility for the Rohingya, the issue is a
sensitive one for local people.

Villagers in Nakhon Si Thammarat held a protest against a planned upgrade to a Border Police Patrol Facility to serve as a shelter for the Rohingya.
Resettlement options also remains elusive.

UNHCR Spokeswoman Vivian Tan said many of the 20,000 displaced Rohingya left their homes because of inter-communal violence in Rakhine state. Since the situation there is still tense, repatriation is not yet possible.

The UNHCR has appealed to authorities to extend the six-month temporary protection.

The Agency also asked the government to relocate the Rohingya to a site that less crowded and allow family reunions for those who are currently held in different
locations, Ms Tan Said.

 

The article was originally published by Bangkok Post at:http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/358206/give-rohingya-more-time-say-aid-groups

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