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UN expert on migrants raises alarm on threat of massive deportations from Thailand

GENEVA (18 February 2010) – The UN human rights expert on the human rights of migrants, Jorge A. Bustamante, today raised serious concerns about the nationality verification process in Thailand and warned that its implementation in its current form may lead to forced deportation of a great number of migrants, in breach of fundamental human rights obligations.

“A potentially large number of documented and undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic face the threat of deportation from Thailand after 28th February 2010,” said the expert, who is mandated by the Human Rights Council to monitor the human rights of migrants.

In January, the Thai Cabinet passed a resolution allowing for a two-year extension of work permits for approximately 1.3 million migrants provided that they were willing to submit biographical information to their home governments prior to 28 February 2010. However, migrants who fail to do so by this deadline risk deportation after the 28 February 2010 deadline.

While welcoming the resolution to extend the period of registration, Mr. Bustamante was concerned that “the scheme is only applicable to regular migrants who submit registration before February 28 and does not include irregular migrants.” Additionally, “this scheme does not offer options for protecting the human rights of migrants who have or will not avail themselves of this process.”
“The precarious situation of migrants in Thailand is further exacerbated by the requirements of the nationality verification process,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on migrants.

“In addition, among the groups who may potentially be deported, there may be some who may be in need of international protection and should not be returned to the country of origin”, warned Mr. Bustamante. “Thailand should respect the principle of ‘non-refoulement’”.

“I am disappointed,” the UN expert added, “that that the Government of Thailand has not responded to my letters expressing calls for restraint; I reiterate my earlier messages to the Government to reconsider its actions and decisions, and to abide by international instruments.”

“If pursued, the threats of mass expulsion will result in unprecedented human suffering and will definitely breach fundamental human rights obligations,” he said.

Learn more about the mandates and activities of the Special Rapporteur Jorge A. Bustamante (Migrants): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/index.htm