The research team consisted of local NGOs’ staff, and Social Work faculty and students. Based on CBPR framework, the team conducted 42 interviews with individuals (N=63) representing refugees from Somalia and Pakistan (Females=29, M=11), representatives of 4 NGOs (n=17) and 3 community-based organizations (n=6) serving refugees. Interview guides focused on aspirations and experiences of unaccompanied women and minors; and comparing strengths and gaps in services in meeting the needs of urban refugees.
The journeys to Thailand for Somali and Pakistani women included smuggling from by land, sea and air. Terror women and children faced during migration are intense. Increased risk of (un)documented female minors’ abuse because of detention and threats from police in Bangkok have kept them trapped in poor neighborhoods. UNHCR’s card does not protect them from immigration officers’ random detentions.
Study participants shared that services are not enough in terms of quality, longevity and types of services, and lack of information regarding access, and lack of understanding how systems work in Bangkok as barriers.
Conclusion and Implications
Refugees are stuck in poor neighborhoods of Bangkok. Lack of formal response and infrastructure, and Thailand not having a formal asylum framework impacts receiving official refugee status resulting into a long process with no assurances. Without effective protection measures, refugees are more susceptible and experience abuse from employers (Migration Policy Institute, 2015), those in illegal employment in particular. Bangkok’s refugee community remains vulnerable to arrest and myriad forms of exploitation and abuse.
Implications to service delivery and social work practice with urban refugee women include: recognizing violation of refugee women’s rights, a growing urge to collaborate and work towards a collective response to the influx of urban refugees, and an increased understanding of community networks to better serve them. There is a need for all partners to shift from emergency service provision model to gender sensitive sustainable and long-term solutions. There is also a prerequisite for a political commitment and will of agencies to ensure that a national framework is in place.