UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News

Thailand

Thai authorities ignore warnings over detention centers

Activists call for release of migrants and asylum seekers from overcrowded facilities to stem spread of Covid-19

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: June 11, 2020 07:54 AM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Thai authorities ignore warnings over detention centers

A Thai immigration police officer looks at foreign detainees at an immigration detention center in Bangkok on Jan. 21, 2019, during a visit organized by authorities for journalists. (Photo: AFP)

Share this article :
Calls on Thai authorities to release hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers from immigration facilities for the sake of their health have fallen on deaf ears, rights advocates say.

Last month Human Rights Watch issued a warning that many migrants had contracted Covid-19 at an overcrowded immigration detention center in a southern province.

More than 40 detainees, as well as several immigration officials, reportedly tested positive for Covid-19, including more than two dozen Rohingya women.

The stateless women, who are classified as refugees by international law, had been detained for entering or staying in Thailand illegally. The Buddhist-majority nation does not recognize the right of stateless Rohingya to political asylum in the country.   

“Regardless of the numbers, there seems to be a problem with the conditions at the detention center and containment of the virus,” Sunai Phasuk, a Thai senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, explained in an article, referring to a detention center in the southern province of Songkhla.

The rights activist added that infections “spread like wildfire in the squalid lockup” owing to “overcrowded and unhygienic” conditions. As many detainees are squeezed into small cells with only basic amenities, social distancing and proper hygiene are both impossible for inmates. That could allow the virus to spread unchecked among inmates.

“The squalor and inadequate medical care in Thailand’s immigration detention centers are well documented. With hundreds of people crammed together, sleeping and eating in the same space and sharing bathroom facilities, social distancing and other measures to prevent infections are impossible,” Sunai wrote.

“In such conditions, Covid-19 can quickly spread, infecting detainees as well as staff who return home each day, bringing the disease into the surrounding community.”

Yet despite such warnings, Thai authorities continue to detain hundreds of asylum seekers and migrant workers at squalid and overcrowded detention centers.

Although the country has managed to contain the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus with slightly over 3,000 documented cases and fewer than 60 deaths over the past five months, rights advocates say the virus could persist in detention centers because of the unhygienic conditions.

If so, it would afflict people with little recourse to proper medical care, they say.

“To stop the spread of Covid-19 inside immigration detention centers, the Thai government should heed recommendations by the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies by either releasing detained refugees and migrants or finding alternatives that allow for adequate space for social distancing and enabling migrants to secure food, hygiene products, and health care for at least the duration of the pandemic,” Sunai said.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
UCAN Ad
 
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution