The European Union has committed more than Bt80 million to Unicef over the next three years to support efforts to strengthen policies and practice for the protection of migrant and stateless children in Thailand, Unicef said on Tuesday.
The EU, Unicef and the Thai government also announced on Monday their partnership for the protection of the rights of children affected by migration in the Kingdom, according to a statement from the UN agency.
Nearly 100 representatives from ministries, civil-society organisations, the private sector, the EU and international organisations had gathered at the partnership launch event in Bangkok on Monday.
Although Thailand currently has policies and legislation in place to provide education, healthcare and child-protection services to all children, including those from migrant communities, a large number of migrant children still face multiple challenges in accessing affordable and quality service, the Unicef statement said.
Migrant children are still being left out for many reasons, including social stigma, poverty, frequent movement, and inadequate service coverage, as well as a lack of awareness and knowledge about how to access available services, it added.
“All children, regardless of their migration status, must be protected. We have to ensure their access to education, healthcare and sanitation, social and legal services, and psychological support,” said Pirkka Tapiola, ambassador of the European Union to Thailand.
According to estimates from the International Organisation for Migration, there were some 300,000 to 400,000 child migrants in Thailand as of 2018, many of them undocumented.
In addition, about 145,000 stateless children are registered with the Thai government, according to the Interior Ministry.
“Thailand already has progressive and generous policies, especially in opening its essential services to all children in the country, whether they are Thai nationals, undocumented migrants or stateless children,” said Thomas Davin, representative for Unicef Thailand.
The partnership between the EU and Unicef will help strengthen the national child-protection systems by training professionals and government authorities to identify, refer and assist vulnerable migrant children to ensure their access to social assistance, legal aid, counselling and birth registration.
The programme also aims to end the detention of children for migration-related reasons, while strengthening alternative care options, such as foster care and kinship care for those who are deprived of parental care or are unaccompanied.