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Laos without refugee status to be d

Subject: Laos without refugee status to be deported 


      Laos without refugee
      status to be deported

      THAI, Laotian and UN High Commission for
      Refugees (UNHCR) officials have agreed
      that Laotians in a Nakhon Phanom camp
      who do not hold refugee status will have to
      return home by the end of next year, ending
      more than a decade of residence on Thai

      The three parties also agreed at a meeting
      last week that another group of Laotians
      who were screened as refugees would be
      allowed to go to a third country within the
      same period. 

      A Thai source who attended the meeting
      said that the UNHCR will assist the group of
      1,155 Laotians return home and choose
      their resettlement areas there. 

      The source admitted that many of the 1,155
      Laotians were not willing to return, but
      under the CPA, those who had no refugee
      status will have to enter ''the organised
      return'' programme to go home. 

      The group of Laotians will return home
      under the Comprehensive Plan of Action,
      which states that refugees should return
      home when they have no fear and their
      home country is ready to receive them, the
      source said. 

      ''Now that the situation in Laos is returning
      to normal and the country is ready to
      receive their men, we therefore believe the
      Laotians should not have any fear of
      returning to their home,'' the source said. 

      Meanwhile a Laotian source attending the
      meeting said that his country is willing to
      see the return of Laotians on voluntary

      However, he said that more details have to
      be discussed in the future because it
      seemed that those who would have to
      return under the term are not willing to go

      ''We cannot accept those who do not want
      to go home,'' he said. 

      He added that the issue will be discussed
      at the Thai-Laos Joint Commission
      meeting scheduled to be held today until

      The group is now residing in a camp in
      Nakhon Phanom's Ban Napho district. They
      are the last group of Laotians who have
      escaped to Thai soil since the 1980s. Many
      of them were allowed to go to a third
      country, while the others have already
      returned home. 

      Thai and Laotian authorities have worked
      with the UNHCR to set deadlines for the
      Laotians, in the hope that Thailand can
      close all the refugee camps for Laotian and
      Cambodian refugees on Thai soil. However
      the deadlines have had to be postponed as
      Laotians feared prosecution upon their
      return to Laos. 

      The Thai source said that the UNHCR
      informed the meeting that it wished to move
      the Laotians out by next June, mainly
      because of financial problems. 

      UNHCR regional representative Amelia
      Bonifacio said that setting a target date
      might help the process move more quickly,
      but that the date was not yet finalised. 

      ''Our agency continues to get the support
      from the donor communities. But we know
      that it cannot last forever and therefore we
      cannot say that the money can be there
      anymore by June,'' she said. 


      The Nation