back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

23 April 2020 – Thailand

A group of civil society organisations issued an open letter on 15 April to the Department of Corrections urging the release of certain categories of prisoners and immigration detainees to address overcrowding. The letter requests that prisoners over the age of 60; sick prisoners; prisoners awaiting trial; prisoners sentenced to terms of up to two years; prisoners detained for immigration offences and pregnant women be prioritised for release.

The same day that the open letter was issued, the Thai Department of Corrections suspended jail sentences for more than 8,000 inmates nationwide to ease overcrowding in prisons during the Covid-19 crisis. The Director-General of the Department of Corrections said that he has sped up the process of granting suspended sentences or cutting the prison term for qualified inmates, including those facing minor offences and/or exhibiting good behaviour. However, no similar measures were announced as regards immigration detainees.

According to advocates in the country that are members of the International Detention Coalition, immigration detention centres remain crowded and detainees at risk of infection, and that authorities have started shifting detainees to different facilities to assist social distancing. The IOM reports that it has been distributing information, education and communication materials in immigration detention centres to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The Border Consortium (TBC) released a statement on 2 April 2020 on the impact of Covid-19 on refugees and conflict-affected communities in the country. TBC stated that the 90,000 refugees from Myanmar in the country have become even more marginalised in camps along the Thailand border and that “restrictions on movement in and out of the camps have eroded refugees’ limited opportunities for informal income, making them solely dependent on humanitarian assistance for their essential needs.” Although no Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the camps, TBC, the Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons, and UNHCR are coordinating a Covid-19 outbreak response.

TBC is undertaking a series of measures, including:

– Working with suppliers and vendors to ensure a three-month stockpile of rice, tinned fish, cooking oil and charcoal is available in all camps
– Undertaking public awareness campaigns about washing hands thoroughly, maintaining social distance, and other preventative communications have been disseminated in local languages
– Distributing personal protective equipment including face masks, hand gloves, thermometers and handwashing facilities to community health workers.