Illegals briefly reunited with families

SONGKHLA — Sixty nine detained Muslim male immigrants were on Wednesday taken to meet their wives and children at a temporary shelter for the first time in two weeks pending the verification of their nationality.

The male immigrants are among more than 200 suspected ethnic Uighurs from northwest China arrested at a rubber plantation in Songkhla on March 12. They are being detained separately from the rest of the group who are women and juveniles at the Padang Besar border crossing.    

They were taken to the Songkhla Children and Family Aid House in Sadao district to meet with their wives and children to relieve stress and as part of humanitarian aid, said Pol Maj Gen Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, commander of the Immigration Bureau's Division 6. 

Another reunion would be organised in the next two weeks if the verification process of their nationality was not completed, he said.  

Reporters were allowed to observe the reunion inside the Songkhla Children and Family Aid House but not allowed to take photos. The immigrants were reportedly filled with joy to be reunited with their family members again.

Speaking in Turkish through an interpretator, a male immigrant said: “I am very happy to see my children and wife today. I want to thank the Thai government, police and all concerned officials for taking care of us well.”

The group comprised about 40 families, or three or four members in each family, and most of them were well groomed and wore brandname shoes, reports said.    

Chomruadee Natasiri, head of the shelter, said the facility accommodated 54 woman, nine of whom are pregnant, and 86 juveniles. One of the pregnant woman delivered a baby on Tuesday night and both the mother and her baby were safe.

She said the staff took good care of them and also organised activities and had toys for the children to play with. 

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