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Behind this Phuket airport sign, six men are being held indefinitely

Authorities Freeze Us, Forget to Feed Us

Thursday, February 13, 2014
PHUKET: Six men from Syria, prisoners inside Phuket airport for a month, are being moved to Bangkok next week, one told Phuketwan by telephone from their chilly quarters today.

''We learned an hour ago that we are being moved to Bangkok,'' said the student, who prefers to remain anonymous. The six are trapped in international limbo, with no place to go.

The student said that he and his companions had been kept in a ''freezing'' room at the airport, where the temperature was often so cold that they were forced to wrap themselves in blankets over their winter clothes.

''And sometimes they forget to feed us,'' he said. ''We went for two days without any food at all.''

The unusual case of having six would-be refugees held captive on a tropical holiday island is likely to continue in Thailand as authorities search for a country to take the men.

They flew out of Phuket on January 13 for Beijing, intending to transit to Stockholm, but Beijing authorities arrested them and sent them back to Phuket.

''I think the authorities in Beijing knew we were coming,'' he said. ''We went into the stamp area and they knew immediately.''

Sweden and other countries in Europe usually provide sanctuary for refugees fleeing the war but it's difficult to know what will happen to the six now. Thai authorities are not allowing them to be interviewed in person by officials from the UN refugee organisation, UNHCR, or any other NGO.

''Swedish authorities usually grant refugees from Syria a stay of two or three months but the Swedish officials say they can only help us if we reach Sweden,'' the student said.

''We know that the Thai authorities wanted to send us to Malaysia or Turkey, but those two countries do not want us.''

The six, all aged in their 20s, met up in Damascus where they obtained false passports, the students said.

''Lots of people have travelled through Bangkok airport but we knew that questions could be asked so we decided to fly via Phuket,'' he said.

The group spent a week in Bangkok then flew to Phuket on January 12 and headed out to Beijing on a flight at 1am the following morning. They were returned to Phuket on January 14.

When asked about treatment at the hands of Thai Immigration officials, the student said: ''These people have no respect for human life.''

He said the six were being held prisoners in the ''Hospitality'' section of Phuket airport, an overcrowded facility constantly stressed by the island's popularity as a holiday destination.

''Sometimes they forget us,'' he said. ''We went two days without any food at all. I don't know whether they are trying to pressure us deliberately or it's just they way things are here.

''The room is very cold and we have to wear our winter clothing and wrap up in blankets. And this is Phuket.''

He said the showers were almost unbearably cold. ''We get horrible headaches after a shower,'' he said. ''We have to wash our clothes by hand then dry them by hanging them on the end of our beds.''

It's not known whether others have ever been held at the airport for such a long period.

The student said that he thought the group - mostly students but including a pharmacist and an electrical engineering graduate - were better qualified than most people given sanctuary in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe.

Two of the men were Palestinians living in Syria, he said. The student did not wish to reveal any names. ''Our families are still in Syria,'' he said.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


why place them in cold quarters and not feed them?...for what reason?..I just don't get they are it necessary to go out of the way to make another persons life even more miserable?..although not even close in comparison..but its the same logic being used against the Rohingya..take advantage of people in limbo by doing anything you can to make soemones life more miserable...Not an inkling of a thought on how one can help someone else...WHY?...I find it so hard to believe that a country where such a high percentage of people who call themselves Buddists can make decisions like this.

Posted by zig on February 13, 2014 19:41


To set some things perfectly straight: Syrian nationals fleeing the war are granted permanent stay permit in Sweden, by government order. Travelling with fake documents is considered a crime, and will end you up in jail, wherever you go. If you are lucky, some countries will just send you back from where you came, otherwhise you stay in jail untill they can establish who you really are and of what nationality. So, whats the problem?

Posted by Swede from Malmo on February 13, 2014 21:30


@Zig it is the Buddhists that are killing the Rohingya people, but I totally concur with your statement about lack of compassion and humanity they are being offered.

Posted by Tbs on February 13, 2014 23:34


Mistah Morrisson: I weally wolly about your mental health old man. Have you appointed your true self as the saviour of all things bad in this rotten world? Wow, man I would go nuts if I did what you do. I think you missed something very important, the killing of the giraf named Marius in the Copenhagen Zoo! Now, here's really something for you, right mate?
Other than that, my advise to you old geezer, get some young thai p****, get drunk, get off your f****g high horses of political correctness and NGO stupidity, you will have a better life 100%, moron...

Posted by BOM on February 14, 2014 02:36

Editor Comment:

We carried the story of the giraffe's death on the day it happened, BOM. Phuketwan doesn't miss much. Given your mental state, you only confirm that Danes can be difficult. Good luck with your choice of lifestyle.


So, whats the problem?
The problem is that regardless of the status of these Syrians (criminals, innocent etc etc), they should be treated and held in humane conditions (ie check-up by doctor, regular food and water, clothing, acceptable room temperature, UN or embassy informed of their detainment etc), and the appropriate steps taken to expediate their transfer to a more official place of detainment/temporary stay.

I am sure that the thousands of happy tourists who pass through the airport every day would be very surprised to learn that asylum seekers were being held 'incommunicado', in 'arduous' conditions just metres away from them.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on February 14, 2014 08:07


Why is it the EU is seen as the only dumping ground for these Muslim refugees, the region they come from has more than enough funds and space to support these people.
Saudi and the rest of the GCC could use their skill sets ,skills that would fail to come up to the standards we have in the west but would be classed as high standard for the Middle East so ship them there if their brothers in this region won't have them

Posted by Scunner on February 14, 2014 09:47

Editor Comment:

If the world ever is divided up purely on what faith people choose, then the Siberian wastes would be ideal for all intolerant radicals who fail to look around and see people living harmoniously. Religious bigotry of the kind practiced in the Dark Ages seems to be the only standard you espouse, Scunner. Goodbye again.


It has to asked how they managed to fly out (and presumably in) of PIA holding fake passports. It doesn't say much for the immigration officers

Posted by agogohome on February 14, 2014 10:37


Everybody have the right to get treated in human way, even you; 'Swede from Malmo' and 'Scunner'.
You are just lucky that you are born in another place on earth than Syria. But who knows, next time we may be reading about you...

Posted by OJ on February 15, 2014 09:47


Ed- the happy (and wet) Songran holiday is rapidly approaching).

Can you update us as to the status of these prisoners?

Are they still stuck at the airport?

Is the hospitality suite not yet available for any new arrivals?


Posted by Simon Luttrell on April 4, 2014 21:03

Monday December 4, 2023
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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