Bangkok, 9 August 2018 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the move by the Royal Thai Government to grant citizenship to three boys and their football coach, who were recently rescued from a cave in Chiang Rai in an extraordinary operation led by Thai authorities.
“By providing these boys and their coach with citizenship, Thailand has given them the chance to both dream of a brighter future and to reach their full potential,” said Carol Batchelor, UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Statelessness. “By granting them citizenship, Thailand has provided them with a formal identity that will pave the way for them to achieve their aspirations and to participate as full members of society, for them to belong.”
People who are not formally recognised as a national of any State are considered ‘stateless’ and can find themselves without access to basic rights and services. In some cases they cannot travel, marry, own property, work or effectively contribute to the societies in which they live. Their problem often remains unseen and unheard, leaving them marginalised and alienated from their wider community. Several million people are known to be stateless worldwide.
“People living with statelessness often face a lifetime of uncertainty,” said Batchelor. “This is a shining example of how positive action by a State can aid people and quickly resolve their stateless situation. We welcome this effort by Thailand and urge all States hosting stateless populations to help eradicate this entirely avoidable blight on humanity.” Thailand’s Interior Ministry has issued guidance on determining citizenship for stateless people, many of whom are part of ‘hill tribes’ living in remote border areas, where they have limited access to information.
Despite these challenges, Thailand has been a regional leader in taking action to end statelessness. Some 100,000 people have been granted Thai citizenship since 2008 and the Royal Thai Government has also committed to finding nationality solutions for 480,000 currently stateless individuals by 2024.
UNHCR and its partner, the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), continue to support the Royal Thai Government and stateless communities in Thailand to reach the country’s goal to eradicate statelessness. In 2014, UNHCR launched its #IBelong campaign, with the intention of ending statelessness across the globe within a decade.