(Washington, D.C.) January 13, 2016 — Jesuit Refugee Service in Bangkok had a busy 2015, ending a 12-month program that served almost 640 extremely vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers – about 275 more than projected – with projects dedicated to improve access to primary healthcare, medical services, mental health and psychosocial support.
The program, funded with a State Department grant from the Bureau of Population Refugees, and Migration, also helped 717 refugees receive emergency assistance such as shelter, food, serious medical needs and referrals to other organizations – a 300 percent increase over target goals.
JRS counselors noticed a significant increase in the past year of suicidal clients and a high need for psychosocial casework. Intensive interventions for suicidal clients included emergency counseling sessions – either in person or on the phone – accompaniment to a clinic, home visits and persuading clients to maintain their medication routine.Seventy-five percent of refugees assisted by JRS counselors reported improved mental health at the end of counseling. A tightening of security in Thailand following a fatal bomb attack at a popular Bangkok shrine in August led to the arrest of people authorities said were illegally in the country. In some situations heads of families were detained, depriving their families of support. JRS provided assistance through casework and financial support to family members left behind, as the difficulties they faced were akin to those of a single parent. JRS’s casework team expanded significantly in 2015 to cope with the rising demand. Many asylum seekers and refugees requested to be relocated to surrounding cities. JRS responded by providing them financial assistance for transportation for those who found housing outside Bangkok, and by searching for safer housing locations for some of the most vulnerable. For temporary relocation needs, JRS made arrangements with some existing clients living in other areas who were willing to host their fellow countrymen for a short period of time while longer-term housing solutions were sought. Some refugees eventually found permanent housing, often with relatives living in other areas of Bangkok. To respond to situations of homelessness, JRS established an emergency shelter for refugees. This allowed those refugees with immediate housing needs to access shelter as they determined their next steps on their path to safety.