Palestinians fleeing Syria arrested in Thailand

By Arnaud Dubus, Friday, March 28, 2014

BANGKOK - A growing number of Palestinians fleeing Syria's civil war have been arrested in Thailand, many caught with false passports at Bangkok international airport while trying to board flights to Europe, according to a report Friday.

Many have been smuggled by human trafficking networks across the Middle East to the southeast Asian country in the hope of then boarding flights to Sweden, according to an investigative article in Friday’s edition of the Bangkok Post.

The number of Palestinians attempting to go to Sweden markedly increased after the Swedish Migration Board announced in September that it would grant permanent residence to refugees from Syria, including Palestinian refugees residing in the war-torn country having been forced out of their homes by Israel.

An investigative article published in Friday’s edition of the Bangkok Post claimed that more than 20 Palestinians had tried to board flights at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport. 

Human Rights Watch Deputy-Director for Asia Philip S. Robertson called on the Thai government to follow "a clear-cut and transparent process in dealing with these people."

“The situation is serious enough in Syria for Thailand to avoid short-cuts and play by the book. That means giving access to the UNHCR, which will allow time to determine if these people are refugees,” he told the Anadolu Agency on Friday. “If it is determined that they are indeed fleeing persecution, some countries will take them, Sweden or another one," he added.

The report followed the case of a woman who traveled from Syria to the United Arab Emirates, and then paid a broker who provided her with a fake passport and was supposed to organize a trip to Sweden via Thailand. 

She was arrested last December at Suvarnabhumi airport for using a fake passport, and has since then languished in a Thai prison, where she said the broker's accomplices had taken a further $7,000 dollars from her. 

The Post report also focused on a man who had traveled from Syria to the UAE, from where he planned to go to Sweden via Thailand. He paid a broker $47,000 dollars for organizing the trip and provide him with a fake passport, only to be arrested at the Bangkok airport, jailed and then released under bail.

Thailand has become a major route for people from various parts of the world willing to migrate to other countries. 

On March 12, 220 Uighurs from China were arrested during a police raid on a jungle camp in the southern Thai province of Songkhla. 

According to local media, they wanted to ask for political asylum in Turkey. 

“Thailand is a country where people are able to come and mix in society and disappear for a while. The proliferation of undocumented migrants could have connections with the fact that it is easy to enter the country and to get a fake passport here," Robertson said.

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