Bangkok/Brussels/Sydney- 5 October, 2011: Persisting needs among undocumented migrants, but Médecins Sans Frontières not permitted to respond.
After months of negotiations and discussions with Thai authorities, it has proved impossible to get permission to provide healthcare to undocumented migrants and vulnerable populations in Thailand that Médecins Sans Frontières believes are the most in need of medical assistance. Earlier this year, the international medical humanitarian organization was forced to close its projects in Samut Sakhon and three Pagodas Pass, depriving 55,000 vulnerable people of their only access to healthcare.
In September, Médecins Sans Frontières came to the conclusion that there was no choice but to close the organisation’s longest-running mission, which started with the provision of assistance to Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer regime in 1976. In the 1980’s Médecins Sans Frontières provided support to refugees from Myanmar. From the mid 1990’s the organisation played a key role in providing and advocating for comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. In the 2000’s Médecins Sans Frontières continued to respond to emergencies and provided healthcare to Hmong refugees in the northern Thailand.
In 36 years, access to healthcare has greatly improved in Thailand. The country was one of the first to introduce free antiretroviral treatment for HIV patients. Today, however, part of the population remains on the fringe. Undocumented migrant workers and communities living along the borders are still deprived of access to basic healthcare services. Despite authorities’ efforts to register migrants, it is estimated that between 1.5 million and 2 million migrants are still undocumented and are not entitled to healthcare. Médecins Sans Frontières is deeply concerned about their fate but sadly has not reached an agreement with the authorities to contribute to improving their health status. While the organisation will close its permanent project, Médecins Sans Frontières will still remain alert and ready to respond to emergencies if needs be.