"People don't even have enough space to lie down and sleep," HRW researcher Alice Farmer said as she presented the findings at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand yesterday.
Farmer said Thailand had a system of arbitrary detention of migrant workers' children and that the bail system, requiring Bt50,000 in addition to a Thai guarantor and an acceptance letter that the child will be accepted in a third country, was almost impossible.
Hence Farmer called on the government to house these children and their parents at shelter facilities instead. While the government has yet to provide specific figures on how many foreign children are currently in detention, Farmer estimated that up to 200 youngsters were taken into custody on a long-term basis every year. She also called on the government to consider the Rohingya, for instance, as a humanitarian issue rather than one of security.
"Children should be with their families and housed in a shelter. A detention centre is not the right place for them," Farmer said.
HRW interviewed 41 migrant children while examining what can be considered as "abusive conditions" at detention facilities, especially at the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre (IDC).
"Immigration detention violates children's rights, immediately risks their health and well-being, and imperils their development," the report titled "Two Years with No Moon: Immigration Detention of Children in Thailand" stated. "Wretched conditions place children in filthy, overcrowded cells without adequate nutrition, education or exercise space. Prolonged detention deprives children of the capacity to mentally and physically grow and thrive."
The report also contained the Foreign Ministry's rebuttal to HRW, which read: "Detention of some small number of migrant children in Thailand is not a result of the government's policies but rather the preference of their migrant parents themselves [family unity] and logistical difficulties."
The treatment of migrants in Thailand has been under close surveillance since the country's status was downgraded to Tier 3 in the US "Trafficking in Persons" report. The Thai authorities say they have taken necessary measures.