BANGKOK – A 13-year-old Somali refugee with Down Syndrome, who has been held at a Thailand detention center for immigrants along with two of his relatives, will be released soon, police said on Wednesday.
Chaturon Budprakes, director of the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, told EFE that the boy, Hamza, is not under detention but in the care of his two male relatives, who were arrested in November for not having a valid visa.
Chaturon said that a foundation, which he did not name, is handling the release of the detainees, without specifying the day they would be freed from the center along with Hamza.
The three are registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but the Thai authorities, having not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, consider them illegal immigrants.
Hamza’s family belongs to the minority Ashraaf community in Somalia where they faced threats and harassment from other groups.
In 2015, Hamza and several of his family members, including his brother, sister and her husband, fled to Thailand with tourist visas that expired shortly.
Despite their legal limbo, the authorities allowed them to live in Thailand, although under the constant fear of being detained at any moment and on the condition that they check in at the detention center twice a month.
However, in November, Hamza’s brother and his brother-in-law were detained and Hamza was locked up with them as there was no one else to take care of him.
Hamza’s sister and her four children – aged 1, 3, 4 and 5 years – are living in a small apartment in northern Bangkok with the help from a local mosque and several non-profits.
The family says that their only hope is to be granted asylum in a third country.
But according to the UNHCR, less than one percent of refugees around the world are taken in annually, and the number of potential destination countries continue to decline so that only the “most vulnerable” asylum seekers are given refuge.
According to UNHCR, there are some 7,000 refugees and asylum seekers from 45 different countries in the urban areas of Thailand. These include 99,000 from Myanmar in shelter camps along the border.