Thailand: bail offers hope for detained refugees

18 April 2012|Molly Mullen

Bangkok, 18 April, 2012 – After two years in detention, Eelavan sat at the JRS office in Bangkok with a smile on his face. He had big news.

After being bailed from Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre he and his wife finally made their wish come true. They are now expecting their first baby.

“We have been together 13 years but have been apart for seven. This is the first time we have really been together,” Eelavan said.

He and his wife faced abuse and torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan military because he was trained as a child soldier for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He fled to Bangkok where he claimed asylum at the airport. He was detained on the spot.

In November, JRS facilitated in the bail out of  16 detainees, by acting as guarantor for detainees who have refugee status, are able to pay their own bail and have accommodation prepared upon release.  Bail applications are then sent to the IDC superintendent for review with the final decision being made by the Immigration Commissioner.. At the beginning of the process, JRS staff in IDC inform the Urban Refugee Programme team so they can continue to follow up with all people bailed by JRS and coordinate with other agencies in regard to housing, healthcare and education.

The bail program has continued and JRS has been the guarantor for 84 refugees, some of whom have been detained more than five years as punishment for fleeing for their lives to a country where they do not hold proper documentation.

The short-term goal of bailing out refugees is to get vulnerable people out of detention and into the community. However, bail is being pursued in conjunction with the long-term goal of a change of legislation to allow refugees and asylum seekers to stay in the country temporarily.

In the meantime JRS is part of a task force to promote alternatives to detention.

“They opened the door and told us we could leave. To be in the free air made us very happy. And at night, to see the night sky I had the same feeling,” Eelavan said.

Molly Mullen, assistant regional communications officer, JRS Asia Pacific

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