Connect with us


The Terminal: asylum seekers’ limbo at Phuket Airport to end soon

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: The six stateless asylum seekers who have been housed under guard at Phuket International Airport for over a month may soon be leaving the island.

Malaysia has agreed to accept the four Syrians in the group, and the two Lebanese men will be sent to Bangkok, said Prapansak Prasansuk, Chief of Immigration at the airport.

How the men, said to be fleeing violence in their countries, arrived in Phuket on a flight from China without passports is still not entirely clear to Immigration officials.

Their story began sometime in December when they arrived in Bangkok. They next appeared on immigration radar when they boarded a Beijing-bound China Airlines flight in Phuket on January 13.

Their ultimate destination was Sweden, where the men all say they have relatives, Mr Prapansak told the Phuket Gazette. They planned to transit in China and fly on.

However, the forward direction of their trip ended abruptly in Beijing, where Chinese Immigration officers declared their passports to be fake, seized them, and ordered China Airlines to return the men to Phuket, said Pensirit Pantachinatat, Deputy Chief of Immigration at the airport.

International transit passengers at Beijing Capital International Airport must pass through immigrations, but the seizure of the passports has perplexed immigration officers here.

“We’d like to know why Immigration in China didn’t arrest them if they believed their passports were fake,” said Ms Pensirit.

“And if they just wanted to expel them, why didn’t they return their passports to them?” she added.

Once the six arrived back in Phuket, they could not be allowed into the country without passports.

“We did not want to send them back to Syria, because it is a country at war,” said Col Prapansak. “But without passports, we couldn’t send them anywhere else either.”

The men were housed, under guard, at the airport while Immigration officials sought a way out of the dilemma.

“China Airlines is responsible for them, but we are trying to help them out,” Col Prapansak said.

China Airlines contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ask for help last month, and UNHCR officials were expected to send staff to Phuket to confer with the men, said Col Prapansak.

At some point, UNHCR said they could not come to Phuket and asked China Airlines to send the men to Bangkok, where they have an office.

“We agreed that China Airlines should take them to Suvarnabhumi Airport to meet with the UNHCR. Thai Immigration there can also better accommodate them, because they have more complete facilities,” said Col Prapansak.

China Airlines, who Col Prapansak says has been paying the bill for the men’s room and board at the airport, agreed to pay to transport the men to Bangkok.

Yesterday, Malaysia agreed to take the Syrian men.

“We have received informal confirmation that Malaysia will accept them,” Col Prapansak told the Gazette.

“We are waiting for the official documents, and expect them to arrive in 2-3 days.”

The two Lebanese men will go to Bangkok, Col Prapansak said.

Once there, UNHCR officials and Chinese immigration will work together to find a solution for them, explained Col Prapansak.

As many as 500,000 Syrians have been displaced by the civil war in their country, the United Nations says.

A Bangkok departure date has not yet been confirmed.

— Irfarn Jamdukor


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

30 million baht added to vaccine side effects compensation fund

Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 hours ago

Plan for 16-week gap between AstraZeneca vaccines dropped

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

CCSA: 120 day reopening will proceed with conditions

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Tourism5 hours ago

Sandbox latest, CCSA says all regions reopening must reach 70% local vaccination

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 3,667 new infections and 32 deaths

Politics8 hours ago

Thamanat elected to role of head ‘fixer’ in Palang Pracharat party

Expats17 hours ago

List: China has over 50% of all foreign-owned condos in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)19 hours ago

Government plans 10 million vaccines for July

World22 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Vaccine deaths investigation, PM heads to Phuket, BMA extends vendor licences | June 18

Thailand23 hours ago

1 million AstraZeneca doses arrive, Anutin says “more” on the way

Drugs23 hours ago

1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine and heroin seized near Malaysian border

Coronavirus (Covid-19)23 hours ago

Pattaya bars plead for government help

Thailand24 hours ago

Colour-coded zoning revised, restrictions to ease nationwide

Transport1 day ago

Department of Land Transport will reopen, issue licenses

Best of1 day ago

Top 8 Things to do in Chiang Mai

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8