Last Sunday, I went to a legal clinic on LTLS with the Pakistani-Ahmadiyya community. There were about 18 or so participants registered for the clinic. There was a community paralegal and interpreter present, in addition to the AAT legal advisor leading the clinic. The components of the clinic included: welcome and greet, introduction, ice-breaking game, pre-test, topic’s presentation, Q&A, and post-test to see how much participants learned from the session. The majority of the presentation highlighted options for moving to a third country, like Australia or Canada. For such legal clinics and workshops, AAT is limited in the information they are able to provide.
More info about services provided by the RSD team:
AAT’s RSD team provides clients with legal advice and representation at first instance (FI), appeal, and reopening, both at our office as well as to clients detained in Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). For all clients, the team provides legal advice, including counseling on the RSD procedures and RSD interview prep. For clients who request for legal representation, we will screen them and decide how to proceed in accordance with our intervention criteria. If we are unable to fully represent clients, we still provide legal advice and self-help to clients on how they can file their own RSD claim.
After a client has informed reception that they would like assistance with the RSD process and once reception makes a referral to the RSD team, then the RSD team lead assigns a legal advocate (aka me) to screen the client. From here, LA duties include scheduling the client for screening and sending recommendations to the supervisor on whether to represent the client. The supervisor will review the screening and make a decision. From there, if it’s full representation/short service, the LA’s role is to start preparing submissions for the client under the supervision of the RSD team lead. If it’s advice only, then the LA will book the client for self-help and advice.
Note on UNHCR decision (if recognized):
If an applicant is recognized as a refugee by UNHCR, they will have their UNHCR card extended, and they will be able to access increased services at BRC. This does not offer increased protection under Thai law – if they do not have a valid visa, the applicant is still considered an “illegal” overstayer.
Differentiation between urban and camp refugees:
Refugees in Thailand are divided into two groups — camp-based and urban — with the former classification given only to people who left Myanmar. The UNHCR is responsible only for determining the statuses of urban refugees. Camp-based refugees are processed through a Thai government–led procedure and cannot move outside designated areas. No national legal framework exists for the protection of urban refugees, and as mentioned above, the UNHCR status designations are not formally recognized by the Thai government. The process of being resettled in a third country can take years. Additionally, resettlement is a durable solution that is available to less than 1% of recognized refugees.
AAT legal screening exists because AAT is currently one of only two legal service providers to urban refugees in Thailand. Legal screening is necessary as AAT is unable to provide services to all UNHCR registered persons of concern (POCs). Screening enables two things: which services a client can access and the level of input we can provide.
Thailand is home to around 4,300 refugees and 850 asylum seekers (2019).
Note on LTLS:
Some LTLS options include resettlement, private sponsorship, humanitarian visa, family reunification, and voluntary repatriation.