The Absence of Legal Recognition and Its Impact on the Living Conditions of Pakistani Asylum Seekers and Refugees Living in Bangkok

Jesper Kulvmann, D.Phil
Department of Social Administration, Thammasat University
dumelarajesper@hotmail.com

Abstract
Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. As such, it does not recognize the status of refugees. Therefore, asylum seekers are not distinguished from other immigrants, legal or illegal. Recently, an increasing number of refugees originating from non-neighbouring countries have arrived by air to Bangkok seeking asylum and UN refugee status at The Asian-Pacific UN headquarter in Bangkok. While the UN processes their application, this group of people, referred to as urban refugees, remain in Bangkok illegally. They are at high risk of being seized and detained at an immigration centre. This study examines how substantial restrictions of human rights, such as absent of fear of arrest, right to work and fair payment, and access to proper housing, education and health provisions, affect the physical as well as mental health of urban refugees in Bangkok. Data are gathered from 50 semi-structured interviews of Pakistani asylum seekers or Pakistanis who have been awarded refugee status but await resettlement in a third country. The paper highlights the detrimental effect the perpetual fear of arrest and the consequential constrained living conditions and high stress levels have on marital life and the social and educational lives of children and adolescents. Depression and declining physical health are common complains. However, the paper also argues that the prolonged poor social environment of the respondents lead to a deterioration of respondents agency, illustrated by lack of personal actions improving their physical health and poor uptake of educational opportunities offered children and adolescents of the respondents.

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