BANGKOK – A 13-year-old Somali refugee with Down syndrome has been released, official sources confirmed to EFE on Thursday.
Hamza was held at a Thailand detention center for immigrants along with two of his relatives.
Chaturon Budprakes, director of the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, told EFE that the boy was in the care of his sister, while his brother-in-law and brother are waiting for someone to pay their bail in order to be released.
Thai police reiterated the fact that Hamza was never detained but was kept in the center under the care of his brother-in-law and his brother, who are the ones generally responsible for taking care of the boy.
A family member of Hamza told EFE that he was released from the center on Wednesday night and is now with his sister, who lives with her four children – aged 1, 3, 4 and 5 years – in a small apartment in northern Bangkok with help from a local mosque and several non-profits.
Hamza, his brother and brother-in-law are registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but the Thai authorities, not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, consider them illegal immigrants.
Hamza’s family belongs to the minority Ashraaf community in Somalia where they faced threats and harassment from other groups.
In 2015, Hamza and several of his family members, including his brother, sister and her husband, fled to Thailand with tourist visas that soon expired.
Despite their legal limbo, the authorities allowed them to live in Thailand, although under the constant fear of being detained at any moment and on the condition that they check in at the detention center twice a month.
However, in November, Hamza’s brother and his brother-in-law were detained and Hamza was locked up with them as there was no one else to take care of him.
The family says that their only hope is to be granted asylum in a third country.
But according to the UNHCR, less than one percent of refugees around the world are taken in annually, and the number of potential destination countries continues to decline so that only the “most vulnerable” asylum seekers are given refuge.