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Project Arisa

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. 

Read Arisa's Story

Four-year-old Arisa was left behind by her mother at Surat Thani shelter, in Southern Thailand. She watched as her mother walked away from the shelter with her baby sister to try and reunite with her other family members in Malaysia. Sometimes parents make difficult decisions and believe their children will have a better future and access to education in the shelters.  Arisa has since been referred to Phang Nga shelter, where she remains today.

The young girl is being looked after by another mother living at the shelter. Although she says the lady is looking after her quite well, she prioritises the needs of her own children, giving them new clothes and toys when they are distributed. Arisa envies them, and wishes that her own mother was there to make her a priority, too.

“There is a real emphasis on giving these children, some of whom have had horrific experiences, a childhood again. So that when they leave they will have the ability and enough language skills to adapt and make the most of their future.”

Gareth Davies from Save the Children New Zealand went to visit the programme in Thailand, and was impressed with what he saw.

We have a solution

We are working with shelter staff to support children like Arisa, through counselling and psychosocial activities, helping her deal with trauma. By providing children living in the shelter with an education and the tools to cope with traumatic experiences, we are giving them a better future.

Boys reading

Better care

We are training shelter staff in child protection and safeguarding, helping them give the best possible care to the children living there.

Understanding

Many of the children living in the shelters do not speak Thai. We are providing translators, so that these children’s stories can be heard and their needs met through individual care plans.

Education

There is a sense of hopelessness amongst older children, as their future seems so uncertain. We are giving them an education and skills to provide them with the tools they need to survive.

Reuniting families

Where possible, we are working to reunite unaccompanied children with their families.

Will you help?

The choice you make right now can help change lives and protect children like Arisa from abuse and traffickers. 

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Thanks to our supporters, we are giving vulnerable and trafficked children living in migrant shelters hope for a better future

5

shelters are being supported

45

shelter staff have been trained

147

children have joined in our psycho-social activities

1,500

people trafficked to Thailand between 2011-2013