Thailand: Children's Crisis Centre for Unaccompanied Refugee Children
Some families fleeing the difficulties of life in Burma make it across the border to Thailand. Of those who do, very few are able to seek asylum in refugee camps as the authorities maintain a strict and sometimes arbitrary policy when classifying who qualifies for refugee status.
Those who are refused entry to the camps have no other option but to reside in Thailand as economic migrants. These thousands of migrants living along the Thai-burma border are poverty stricken, doing the best with what they have. Most of them live in small huts made of bamboo and cardboard with leaf thatched roofs.
Unaccompanied Refugee Children
Two thirds of the migrants that arrive in Thailand from Burma are women and children.
Some refugee children arrive alone, looking for work. A few have been orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of conflict and persecution.
For those children that do arrive with their families life is not necessarily any easier. Often parents are detained by the Thai authorities and separated from their children. Many children are abandoned as parents are not able to look after them due to incapacitating illness (e.g. AIDS) or death.
Any child in these circumstances is exceptionally vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Many become victims to drug and human traffickers, they are often trafficked to big cities such as Bangkok.
What we do to help:
Close to the border of Burma the Children's Crisis Centre exists to help children like these. Established in 2001 by ‘Social Action for Women’, this project provides a safe place for children from Burma who are in crisis. The centre offers temporary or long term care depending on the needs of the individual child or young person.
Where possible we try to re-unite children with their parents, or re-integrate them with their families in situations where there have been problems. If re-integration is not possible we try to ensure that appropriate family contact is maintained.
There are 72 children at the Centre, all of whom now have access to food, shelter, education, health care, trauma counselling and recreational activities.
Ra Hla Moe is 10 years old. After fleeing from Burma her family were not recognised as asylum seekers in Thailand and forced to collect rubbish to earn a living. Soon her parents were arrested and imprisoned for having no documentation. Fortunately Hla Moe was taken to the Children’s Crisis Centre. Now she is safe, and instead of collecting rubbish she has started her education. She enjoys drawing, singing, dancing and art.
The hope is that we will one day be able to reunite her with her parents. As the troubles in Burma continue and the Thai government cracks down with increasing severity on incoming refugees, the problems are not abating. This work here is still crucial.