The family of eight from Zimbabwe that’s been living at Suvarnabhumi International Airport for three months is awaiting refugee status from the United Nations’ Bangkok office, the Immigration Police Bureau has explained in response to an online furore.
Photos of the family – with children aged 2, 6, 7 and 11 – circulated on the social media this week, prompting calls for their predicament to be resolved.
Bureau deputy spokesman Pol Colonel Cherngron Rimpadee said it had been determined that Muvadi Rodrick’s family arrived in Thailand in May and overstayed their tourist visas by five months.
The overstay was discovered on October 23 when they sought to leave Thailand to fly to Barcelona, Spain.
They were fined and an airline was asked to fly them back to Zimbabwe, but the family claimed their safety would be at risk amid their homeland’s unrest, Cherngron said.
On November 7, the family bought airfare to a third country, but on November 13, Ukraine, where they stopped in transit, sent them back to Thailand.
They have been living since then within the departure terminal at Suvarnabhumi under the care of airline staff while their application for refugee status is being processed.
They were being well taken care of and were not being held in a detention hall, as is the case with foreigners awaiting deportation, Cherngron stressed.
“The Immigration Police Bureau received a letter from the UN refugee agency’s office in Thailand saying this group had been registered as applicants for refugee status and the process was underway,” he said. UN officials have interviewed them and was asking relevant agencies to provide humanitarian aid.
The family’s predicament came to light when Facebook user Kanaruj Artt Pornsopit, who said he works at the airport, posted a photo of himself with the six-year-old, who’d asked him to bring her a Christmas present.