Ninety-six Ahmadi refugees and asylum seekers, including 33 children and a newborn baby, were released from Bangkok's International Detention Centre (IDC) on 6 June, six months since their arrest in December.
"This is the first time in Thailand that there is an alternative to detainment for refugees," Anoop Sukumaran, coordinator for the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), told IRIN.
The detainees were released under the Refugee Freedom Fund, a new initiative of the Thai Committee for Refugees (TCR) to accommodate asylum seekers in a residential building while awaiting resettlement.
The Ahmadis, from Pakistan, are high-priority cases for resettlement, according to Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok.
"We hope the events of today will set a precedent for more releases in the future," APRRN's programme officer Julia Mayerhofer, said.
Approximately 116 refugees and 50 asylum seekers, including people from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, remain in detention. The IDC is meant to be a temporary holding place, but some stay up to two years. The centre is so overcrowded that for some people to sleep, others have to stand.
"Our dream is to change that," said Veerawit Tianchainan, TCR's executive director, said.
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