Stateless students to get priority in receiving citizenship

4 students5With statelessness and lack of education making young people more vulnerable to human trafficking, Thailand’s government had declared it a priority to assist over 20,000 stateless students obtain the necessary documents to become recognized as citizens and receive full access to their rights and services such as health care.

Roughly 25 percent of stateless students in Thailand qualify for citizenship, according to Grisada Boonrach, permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior and director general of the Department of Provincial Administration (DPA). Grisada said the ministry has issued an order for provincial officials to “go on the offensive” and start documenting stateless students who qualify for Thai citizenship.

He added that the ministry will set up a special unit whose members will be sent to join local citizenship identification teams. Those teams will visit towns and villages where stateless people reportedly live and examine whatever documents and paperwork they have to see how many qualify as citizens.

Stateless students often belong to families of ethnic minorities, especially hill tribe groups, that have roamed across borders in seasonal migrations or whose homes are in remote areas. In remote areas and among the poor and illiterate, birth registrations are lower, and birth certificates are a key to documenting citizenship. More than 600 hospitals in Thailand are now using an online birth registration system.

According to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), 99.4 percent of children in Thailand are registered at birth. However, only 79.2 percent of children in non-Thai households are registered at birth.  “This happens even though the law states that any child born in Thailand, including to non-Thai parents or parents who have no legal status, has the right to be registered and to obtain a birth certificate,” the UNICEF website states.

According to the DPA, 78,175 students are stateless. Of those students, 20,337 are qualified to receive Thai citizenship. Most of the students are enrolled in primary schools.

Grisada said the ministry will use advanced information technology to help students obtain the needed documents for citizenship. Stateless people can get information and submit applications at district offices or at citizenship law clinics run by the DPA.

“Without a birth certificate, a child can be denied the right to subsidized healthcare and other social welfare services, and can face restrictions on travel that limit both future education and employment opportunities,” UNICEF says. “Unregistered children are also more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation as their legal status makes it more difficult for them to file complaints or access related service once they fall victims.”