Palestinians who fled Syria seek refugee status in Thailand
A year after about 300 Palestinians fled Syria for Thailand, the UN has yet to grant status.
Dozens of Palestinians stranded in Thailand after fleeing war-torn Syria a year ago on Thursday petitioned the United Nations to speed up the process of granting them refugee status.
The Palestinian petitioners, most of them children, gathered outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok in a bid to draw attention to their increasingly desperate plight in the kingdom.
"We need recognition as a special case with no homeland to return to," said Tamman Tamim, 37, a spokesman for the Palestinians from Syria.
An estimated 300 Palestinians have fled fighting in Syria for Thailand over the past year, after being granted visas by the Thai embassy in Damascus.
"We were like visitors in Syria," Tamim said. "We didn't take sides so when the war broke out we decided to run away."
Even though they did not have passports, Thailand granted them visas to travel to Bangkok, where they immediately sought refugee status from the UNHCR.
But a year later, the UNHCR has yet to process their cases to make them eligible for resettlement or renew their visas in Thailand.
"Now there are 25 Palestinians in jail because they don't have visas," Tamim said.
Lacking passports and visas, the Palestinians are at constant risk of arrest by Thai authorities.
They called for their visas to be automatically renewed and for refugee status to be conferred quickly by the UNHCR.
After the state of Israel was created 66 years ago, thousands of Palestinians fled to neighbouring Arab states where they became refugees.
Many of those who fled to Syria are now seeking another refuge.
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