The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and the Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP) conducted a situation analysis of the progress of the National Screening Mechanism in Thailand under the Prime Minister’s Office Regulation on the Screening of Aliens Entering into the Kingdom and Unable to Return to their Country of Origin (B.E. 2562). The study presents the key findings in four sections.
External and internal factors that influence Thai operation capacity and policy
The Regulation is a legal milestone for improving refugee management even though implementation has been delayed in practice. Internal and external factors have affected the implementation of the Regulation, as illustrated in the table below.
Needs, priorities, and perceptions of people affected by the NSM
According to a focus group discussion (FGD) with affected communities across Thailand, refugees’ primary needs are legal status, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and access to basic human rights through domestic legal frameworks. The FGD participants prioritized receiving information on the eligibility criteria of a protected person, the screening procedures, and on how the transition of UNHCR’s role would be. The RTG is still determining the details regarding these three matters. The FGD participants’ perception of the definition of ‘protected person’ is positive, but they felt that the definition of ‘protected person’ should be as clear as the definition of ‘refugee’. The Regulation also increased hope among refugees, asylum-seekers, and CSOs that the enforcement of the Regulation will bring positive results and provide protection for vulnerable populations. Finally, the participants who were refugees in camps stated that they had never heard of the NSM prior to attending the FGDs, whereas the urban refugees seemed to have received more information, although not in detail.
Operational standards and progress
The lack of progress of the implementation of the NSM has had a direct impact on its operations, both in the perceptions of key stakeholders and in the operation’s objective outcomes. Although the Regulation has already been enforced, it has not yet been implemented in practice. Stakeholders are divided on how to interpret the apparent delay in the implementation. Whereas the Royal Thai Police (RTP) have said the implementation plan follows the intended timeframe, unnamed sources have asserted that one reason for the delay is the need to balance national security, humanitarian aims, and foreign policy with neighbouring countries. The operating procedures of the Regulation are currently under determination by the Subcommittee under the Regulation, as the Regulation does not provide details on its implementation. The majority of people in the NSM Committee and Subcommittee are part of the RTG, and most have a national security background. Moreover, CSOs have had difficulty accessing information, which has made it hard for them to effectively plan and make strategic interventions. As such, CSOs feel that there is a need to reflect on the number of CSO representatives on the NSM Committees and Subcommittees. UNHCR’s role during and after the transition is unclear at present. Although UNHCR has facilitated capacity-building workshops with Thai officials to transfer knowledge necessary to running a screening mechanism and is working to make relevant case law and country of origin information available in Thai, it is unclear when UNHCR will stop conducting Refugee Status Determinations. 4. Human rights principles and standards Whilst the Regulation mentions some international standards and recognizes the right to healthcare and education, some rights remain unclear, including most fundamentally, for example, access to employment and procedural rights like the right to appeal and non-discrimination. Moreover, the criteria of a protected person is not yet defined to compare all grounding of refugee definition.
Strengthen collaboration between CSOs and the government in the following aspects
Clearly define the screening and evaluation criteria, rights, and protections for persons who submit a request, so that those undergoing screening and protected persons are provided rights that adhere to international standards
Build a positive narrative of refugees and the benefit of Thailand having a national screening mechanism
Recommendation for further study by the participants at the soft launch of this report
Full report here.