Triumph for Artee

Triumph for Artee

We have been following Artees journey over the past year as we have assisted her in applying for Thai Citizenship, which began long before ADRA or UNHCRs involvement.

Artee first began preparing documents eight years ago before submitting for full nationality 4 years ago. Unfortunately after several years with no word, the district office informed her they had lost her application and that she would have to re-submit. The village elders had trouble supplying her with important documents needed to re-submit and other complications further slowed progress. However, with ADRAs assistance in chasing up loose ends Artee was able to lodge an application early last year and was rewarded for her efforts on the 24th November 2016. On this day Artee was declared a Thai Citizen; by taking part in a naturalization ceremony and receiving her very own Thai Identification card.

The ceremony saw over 300 stateless individuals naturalized and become official Thai citizens, many of them children. Several represented their communities in traditional dress, and countless others supporting the occasion. It was an exciting time for those who now have a myriad of opportunities and a bright future ahead of them.

 Artee is the first one in her family to get a Thai ID card in her family, and she says that this has changed her future.  “I can go outside my province and continue my studies. I can get a loan for my studies now. Before I felt very bad, my friends joke and say I cannot leave my village or go anywhere. My parents don’t study, they don’t know about the law”.

 By having Identification, Artee now has access to facilities and benefits not possible before, paving the way for possibilities. She has only left her district once for a school trip, and now she can leave whenever she pleases; perhaps even apply for a passport to go abroad. Government healthcare benefits are accessible and job opportunities are easier to come by.  There was a time when the Government offered scholarships to Artees peers, and unfortunately those without identification were denied the same access to financial aid. This is a constant in the life of a stateless individual; overlooked and denied what is so easily accessible to those around them.

 Her enthusiasm and vigor was contagious as Artee described her plans to ADRA and UNHCR staff on the day. She intends to continue studying and obtain a bachelor’s degree in education, if her financial situation will allow it. Subsequently, Artee has her four siblings and mother to consider before going off to university, but is confident that she will find a way.  If she cannot support herself and help her family she will work for a few years to save money and then proceed to go to university. Artee would like to be a teacher, but also has an eye for business and would love to run her own furniture store one day. This way she can provide for her family and use her skills in a practical setting; currently she studies business at school.

 Now she is asking ADRA to follow up with her siblings nationality application, so they may have the freedom she is ready to embrace. Already people in her village are asking questions on how they can get an ID card, and she tells them to go and see ADRA. “They prepare documents and can help you. They go to the District Office and do follow-ups, they do everything they can to help you. I am very happy they helped me, thank you ADRA and UNHCR”.

Artee holds up her new identification card at the naturalisation ceremony.

Photograph by Brittanie McLean

Artee and her friends who also took part in the ceremony and received identification

Artee stands with a district officer after the ceremony.

Previous Project Manager Titi hands out ID cards with the other officials.

One of the students who received their ID cards at the ceremony.

ADRA Reaches More at Community Event

ADRA Reaches More at Community Event

Last week, the Community Sensitisation Project attended a community outreach event to spread ADRAs reach in areas with high amounts of statelessness.

The event was held at a local school about 2.5 hours north-west of Mae Chan (near the Thai-Myanmar Border in Northern Thailand), and began at around 9am. It was a half-day event that showcased a variety of organisations who worked in fields of agriculture, education, health; and some provided donated items (e.g books, bedding). Students from the local University and Vocational Training Colleges offered services such as health clinics and hairdressing at free or discounted rates. The health clinics aimed at educating school students. The Thai Government also made an appearance through district officials and the fire department.
 
ADRAs Stateless Reduction & Community Sensitisation Project (CSP) is part of UNHCRs Global Action Plan to end statelessness. Thailand has an estimated 443,862 stateless individuals; a high prevalence compared to most countries. The project provides consultation and legal advice for nationality application to these communities.
 
The day was quite a success for ADRA, with staff constantly advising locals and gathering information for the duration of the event.  The Program Manager conducted several case studies for more complicated issues; offering legal advice and support aided by his law background. Many held no documentation whatsoever, but ADRA was able to fill general forms and collect fingerprints. The few who had documentation (e.g birth certificate) were able to get more processed on the day.
 
Many whole families showed up who were stateless, hoping ADRA can provide the solution. The closest service point for ADRA from the school is 1.5 hours away which makes it difficult for some to access. The collective event proved most beneficial to communities in the surrounding areas. Families have gained better understanding in this issue and their personal situations as a result.  It is the hope of ADRA that these events will continue to reach geographically challenged communities and provide exposure to organisations that can foster change.

A Fresh Lease

The Community Sensitisation Project started in October 2015 and is concentrated at providing stateless people with official documentation that recognises them as a Thai Citizen. People who are stateless lack access to basic healthcare; have difficulty acquiring employment and are unable to travel out of their districts.

Since then it has impacted many lives, including that of Mia, a young girl from the Acha Tribe. Mia was born in the Mae Fa Luang District and is also part of the Keep Girls Safe Project, who came to the shelter when she was nine years old. She has three older sisters, two of which live with her mother.  Mias relationship with her mother has been tense for a long time; when she was little her mother got remarried and left her & her sisters with a mentally ill Uncle who was extremely poor and had no income. None of Mias family have a Thai ID and this creates extra pressure on the family. Mia used to stay with her sister when she went home to visit her family while living at KGS, because her mother would not welcome her or the KGS staff. Even when Mia gets to go home she needs to have an ADRA staff member with her as the project is in a different area and without a Thai ID she cannot leave the district.

Fortunately, the CSP project has been able to help Mia’s family with Thai Citizenship. Her sister was given a Thai ID in December, now she can travel locally or abroad and access government subsidies. Her mother was also provided with a Thai ID in February which has made her much more friendly towards the ADRA staff, and now Mia can stay with her when she visits. The staff have created a mutual understanding with the mother in relation to Mia and now she can spend quality time with her mother. Her other two sisters have also submitted applications and are now waiting to see what happens.

Currently, CSP staff are in the process of getting Mia her Thai ID. There have been many difficulties in doing so as they need documentation and witnesses that Mia has been at KGS the whole time and not elsewhere. Unfortunately, all staff at her previous school have retired and the shelter has since moved locations; and so finding witnesses is tricky.

Staff are working with Mae Fa Luang offices and Chiang Rai City Hall to acquire evidence so their claim can be substantiated. Mia was however able to get her birth certificate, which is a step in the right direction and hopefully will help in her battle to be recognised as a Thai Citizen. Something she should not have to be doing, but has been easier thanks to the CSP team, their hard work and Mia’s smiling face.