End child detention, activists say

End child detention, activists say

The government should set a clear framework that will stop child refugees living in detention-like conditions and come up with alternatives that are more child-sensitive, says Ratirose Supaporn from Save the Children.

Ms Ratirose cited a finding of study in Australia that immigration detention is costly to governments when compared with more child-appropriate and humane alternatives, such as letting child refugees live with their families in open society.

This could save up to 80% of costs compared to immigration detention facilities, she said.

The report was titled "Unlocking childhood immigration detention practices and alternatives for child asylum seekers and refugees in Asia and the Pacific", and was conducted by Save the Children and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.

National human rights commissioner, Angkhana Neelapaijit also backs calls for better alternatives. She added that children should not be separated from their families.

Thailand is not a signatory party to the Refugee Convention; as a result, no asylum framework has been put in place in domestic law or policy.

Refugees and asylum seekers coming to Thailand are treated under an illegal migrant and anti-trafficking framework.

Although there is a mechanism for refugee status determination, this process may take up to 3-4 years to obtain a result. While waiting for resettlement and determination of their refugee status, these people are defined as illegal migrants under the Immigration Act and might be arrested, prosecuted, detained or deported.

The United Nations High Commision for Refugees estimated late last year there were 281 asylum seekers and refugees, 43 of whom were children, in officially designated "immigration detention centres" in Thailand.

This does not include the number of asylum seekers and refugees living in refugee camps.

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