BANGKOK: More than 100 refugees, including a teenager who had been on the verge of reuniting with his mother, have been left in limbo in Bangkok by Donald Trump’s refugee resettlement freeze, a UN official said on Tuesday.
The widely condemned order signed by the US president on Friday unleashed chaos and confusion across the globe after it abruptly suspended all refugee arrivals for 120 days, with Syrian refugees barred indefinitely.
The United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR estimates that more than 20,000 people worldwide were slated to be resettled in the US during that window.
Among them are more than 100 living in the shadows in Bangkok, the capital of a country whose porous borders and air links draw refugees from around the globe yet does not recognize the right to asylum.
Thailand does not differentiate between illegal immigrants and refugees, leaving asylum-seekers vulnerable to arrest and deportation as they endure years-long vetting processes for resettlement in third party countries.
“We have a couple hundred refugees who were supposed to go the US” over the next 120 days, Jennifer Bose of UNCHR Thailand told Agence France-Presse Tuesday.
They hail from strife-torn countries around the globe and include a teenage boy who is being held in a detention cell and was set to join his mother and relatives in the US in the coming weeks.
“Our office has been working hard to prove his family links in the US and supported his resettlement process,” Bose said.
“Obviously this case is on hold now and we don’t know what will happen. This is a case that is really troubling and heartbreaking.”
Bose declined to reveal his nationality but said the boy hailed from one of the seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—that Trump’s order placed separate temporary travel bans on.
The United States’ refugee resettlement program has long been the world’s most generous source of sanctuary for those fleeing conflict and persecution.
In 2015, the country was responsible for finding homes for 64 percent of those referred to world governments by the UNHCR.
“This week alone, over 800 refugees were set to make America their new home,” the Geneva-based organization said in a statement Tuesday.
“Refugees are anxious, confused and heartbroken at this suspension”, it added, describing UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi as “deeply worried” by the impact of Trump’s move. AFP