In the wake of a mass exodus of Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand last month, World Vision says that an alarming number of children have found themselves lost and separated from their parents at the border.
In a statement released Tuesday, the organization also said many children are once again returning back into Thailand illegally with their families, leaving them vulnerable and undocumented.
“[O]ur staff working along the border are reporting groups of migrants traveling back into Thailand without waiting for legal documentation, thinking that the process would take a long time,” said Jason Evans, World Vision’s national director in Cambodia.
“Our major concern however, is for the children that are in tow—they are put at increased risk being taken into another country undocumented and unprotected,” Mr. Evans says in the statement.
He said children often benefit more from staying with extended family in Cambodia, where they have greater safety and access to education.
“From our experience of responding to the mass exodus of migrants at Poipet border last month, we encountered many cases of lost children—children who could not find their parents as they exited from Thailand,” the statement says.
“If parents continue to migrate irregularly, children will continue to be separated from their parents.”
Poipet City immigration police chief Sun Sam Ath said that 24 children were among 420 Cambodians rounded up in Thailand and sent back over the border Tuesday.
“I have no idea which checkpoints they used to get in, but they have been sent back through my checkpoint,” he said. “They were deceived by brokers.”
While Mr. Sam Ath said that thousands of Cambodians are now flowing back into Thailand every day, only a few are children.
“Two to three kids with passports also cross the border every day,” he said.
© 2014, Lauren Crothers. All rights reserved.