New refugee screening system stirs concern among asylum seekers

Bangkok is residence to a church where Vietnamese refugees find a momentary haven from lives fraught with worry of arrest or deportation. This is because Thailand, having not signed up for the UN Refugee Convention, doesn’t have a system in place to distinguish between refugees and other migrants, resulting in thousands of individuals dwelling beneath the radar.
Soon, a revamped system shall be carried out, designed to distinguish between individuals who would face hazard if returned to their homelands and others who are in Thailand illegally. However, this new system is being greeted with unease by refugees and rights activists alike, who worry it might be misused or even lead to expedited deportations.
Sung Seo Hoa, a Vietnamese pastor and member of Vietnam’s Hmong minority, expressed these fears. Having fled from pressure from the communist authorities in his homeland 12 years in the past, he now leads a life of fear.
“We are afraid of police arrest, being put in jail and deported again to Vietnam. That’s what we’re very afraid of, 24 hours a day.”

He doesn’t plan to undergo the new screening course of as a result of risks concerned.
The National Screening Mechanism, set to launch later this month, will see a system with Thai police display screen principally urban refugees and asylum seekers. Those granted protected person standing will obtain momentary residence permits and access to healthcare and faculties, but not the right to work.
However, there are issues about potential loopholes related to national security, which could affect teams similar to Uyghurs from China, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and North Koreans, reported Bangkok Post.
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, warned that police heading the screening committee may lead to potential abuse. He also cautioned about these loopholes lacking transparency.
“There are very broad undefined provisions related to nationwide security which the government could say ‘for national security causes we don’t need to display screen that individual as a refugee and we don’t have to tell you why’.”

There are fears that the new system could turn into a pay-to-play game, where these with money should buy standing. The screening process will also embody felony background checks, which may ensnare Myanmar anti-coup activists with unfounded felony expenses in opposition to them.
Thailand’s history of deporting refugees, including 109 Uyghurs to China in 2015, has additionally bred mistrust in the system, says Patrick Phongsathorn of the campaign group Fortify Rights.
Billion see there’s a cooperation between repressive governments on this area in terms of taking out each other’s dissidents — a swap store if you will.”

The Thai Department of International Organisations has assured that respect for privacy and confidentiality are core principles and that it might not return rejected applicants to their nations under the principle of non-refoulement. Applicants can enchantment towards rejection in the refugee system inside 90 days.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has performed screenings under the present system, but it is uncertain how much longer this will continue. The company claims it has been working with Thailand to establish a good, efficient and clear protection mechanism consistent with international requirements..

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