URGENT STATEMENT: APRRN calls on the Royal Thai Government to comply with its legal obligations to Uyghur refugees
22 July 2022
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) urges the Royal Thai Government not to deport Uyghur refugees held in arbitrary detention. No return to China is safe for Uyghurs. APRRN urges the Royal Thai Government to immediately release these refugees or utilize available resettlement options.
A total of 54 Uyghur refugees have been arbitrarily detained for more than eight years. The recent news of the transfer of 44 of these men to a single detention site close to a Bangkok airport is deeply concerning. All but a handful of this group have been convicted of no criminal offence and are detained solely because of their status as Uyghur refugees.
Thailand is a member of the ECOSOC Committee of the United Nations and has provided global leadership on alternatives to immigration detention as part of the International Migration Review Forum and the Global Compact on Refugees. As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and a party to the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, as well as under customary international law, Thailand is bound by the non-refoulement principle.
Thailand has a long and proud tradition of affording protection to refugees, and of not returning men, women, and children to places where they are in danger of suffering persecution and harm. For generations, the people of Thailand have welcomed many people fleeing conflict and oppression in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and other countries.
APRRN calls on Thailand, its international partners, and the United Nations to urgently resolve this situation in a way which is compliant with Thailand’s legal and international obligations.
APRRN calls on the Royal Thai Government to:
1. Immediately release Uyghur refugees detained in Thailand
2. Facilitate immediate and unfettered access to UNHCR for Uyghurs in Thailand
3. Allow Uyghurs refugees to access resettlement
These detainees are part of a larger group who arrived in Thailand between 2013 and 2014. At the time, more than 350 Uyghur men, women, and children fleeing China were arrested and detained by the Thai authorities. In July 2015, at least 170 women and children were transferred to Turkey. Some weeks later, 109 men and women were deported to China. No further information on their treatment or whereabouts is available.
This remaining group of refugees has been detained in several immigration detention centers across Thailand since initially arrested. Some of the group were first detained as children. They have been denied access to a lawyer, to UNHCR, and adequate medical care. Such conditions fall below the legal and human rights standards set in Thai law, and are life-threatening.
On 11 July 2022, three Uyghur refugees escaped from Prachuap Khiri Khan immigration detention center. Several days later, at least 44 Uyghur refugees were transferred to a single detention site close to a Bangkok airport.
The forcible return of Uyghurs to China from Thailand has been strongly condemned internationally including by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture expressed clear concern to the Thai authorities that the deportation of Uyghur refugees “would amount to refoulement and put them at risk of being tortured or subjected to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”1
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is a network of over 200 active civil society organisations and individuals from 29 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. APRRN aims to advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection through joint advocacy, capacity strengthening, resource sharing, and outreach. While APRRN statements are prepared in consultation with members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all APRRN members.
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