Thailand is home to a number of unaccompanied, neglected and trafficked children who are seeking refuge from poverty and persecution in neighbouring countries.
Children who have migrated or been trafficked into Thailand unlawfully are placed in temporary shelters, where they await their future. Often these children have been separated from their families, and have suffered traumatic experiences and abuse during the period of migration.
Many of the children seeking refuge are from the Rohingya community who, along with Bengali migrants, are seeking to escape persecution and poverty in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The Rohingya people are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, with no rights or citizenship within Myanmar. Rejected everywhere, they have been desperately seeking safety in neighbouring countries.
These refugees and migrants have been paying people smugglers to undertake the journey from the Bay of Bengal through the Andaman Sea, usually with the intention of landing in Malaysia, and in some cases Australia, as a final destination. However, reports show that these migrants are often trafficked for ransom, or to be exploited for their labour.
Between 2011 and 2013, Thailand rescued over 1,500 victims of trafficking – half of whom were children. However, there are no national or local guidelines in place on how to care for and protect these children. What’s more, due to language barriers, trafficked children are often misidentified as illegal migrants and therefore placed in detention centres. Without appropriate training and policies children may continue to be exposed to violence and physical harm within shelters, impacting on their ability to develop physically, socially and emotionally.