World Watch Monitor reports reliable sources saying that the Thai government is planning to cancel bail for all male asylum seekers in Bangkok. The move would require them to return to detention centres straight away.
This would include many of the estimated 11,500 Pakistani Christians who complained in 2016 that UNHCR officials in Thailand were not taking their applications seriously enough.
As far as is known, the move does not apply to male asylum seekers who have recognised refugee status, nor to women and children.
Asylum seekers with serious medical conditions also appear to be exempt so long as they can show all their medical documentation and, possibly, also a doctor’s note stating that they should not be held in a centre.
A mass return of asylum seekers to the centres could lead to overcrowding and see health levels deteriorate; they are already showing significant levels of tuberculosis, hepatitis and scabies.
Some suspect that Thailand’s aim is to put pressure on the asylum seekers to return home to Pakistan. Many may do so to avoid being further detained, but the targeting of men could make women and children more vulnerable in a system that is already facing a severe backlog. Part of the asylum seekers’ criticism of UNHCR officials was their fear that children were missing out on education while applications were being processed. “Thai schools aren’t interested in teaching our students, nor are [the children] happy there, because everything is in Thai, which they don’t understand,” parents said.
Resettlement of the asylum seekers by the UNHCR has, in the past, taken less than a year but was reported in September 2016 to be taking more than five years.