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Title: Seeking asylum in Bangkok, Thailand : surviving, coping, and the wellbeing strategies of Palestinian-Syrian refugees
Author: Tauson, Michaelle Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5992 5104
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2017
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The word 'refugee', more often than not, conjures up notions of poor, destitute, malnourished children, standing shoeless in refugee camps throughout Africa. When explaining to people that I was working with refugees in Bangkok, the most common and immediate response, from international development workers to Thai nationals, was, "I didn't even know refugees lived in Bangkok?" When I went on to inform them that I was working with Palestinian-Syrian refugees, the responses often varied between incredulity to something bordering on shock. Some went as far as to ask me if I was certain; perhaps I had meant something else, "Surely, there are no Syrians in Bangkok." Indeed, many hundreds of Palestinian-Syrians, in addition to many hundreds of Syrian nationals, drove across the border into Lebanon, boarded airplanes in Beirut and flew to Bangkok in order to flee conflict and seek asylum. An increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers are escaping conflict and persecution from numerous African, Middle Eastern and South Asian countries in order to find refuge, ultimately pursuing third country resettlement in Southeast Asia. With the continued instability in many countries in these regions, this trend is not only likely to continue, but to intensify. Facing a lack of legal protections upon arrival in most Southeast Asian cities, refugees from all nations are forced to live in extremely insecure and tenuous circumstances. In Bangkok, refugees and asylum seekers are in constant fear of indefinite detainment, extortion, and harassment. They lack the right to work, rent housing, obtain an education, and in many cases are unable to access proper health care. With over 50 per cent of the world's displaced persons now living in urban areas, the current attitudes and policies towards refugees must certainly shift to adequately address the situation. However, our depth of knowledge about these urban populations is still superficial. While the field of urban refugee research is now growing, data and information is incomplete. In order to survive, refugees are forced to live a life hidden in plain sight; due to this, it is impossible to begin to understand the scale of the issue, let alone the vast array of experiences of those seeking refuge in urban spaces. In Bangkok, how individuals are able to survive, sustain a livelihood and cope is unknown to most researchers, international and national nongovernmental organisations (INGOs and NGOs), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is this gap in knowledge that has driven this research. I lived for two years in Bangkok volunteering my nights and evenings with a small NGO that works with refugees in the city. I was also an employee of a UN agency and worked in the United Nations compound where I regularly interacted with employees of UNHCR. Through these experiences I came to discover this gaping hole in knowledge, which was worsened by the 'arm's length' culture of the UNHCR, NGOs, and INGOs in Bangkok. Overall, these organisations did not understand how peopled managed to survive without the right to work, the right to stay, or the right to access resources such as health and education. More importantly, there was a lack of understanding regarding how they managed to build up the strength to survive under such conditions. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introduction to my research and provide clarifications and insight into this global phenomenon. This chapter begins by describing the rationale for the research, the research questions, and the main findings. Second, the chapter briefly describes the current global refugee phenomena; relevant refugee law - focusing mostly on refugee status determination; trends in Asia, Southeast Asia, and Thailand; and finishes by describing the pull factors of, or draw to, Southeast Asia and the push, or discouraging, factors of Syria's neighbouring countries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HV0640 Refugee problems