14 January 2008The United Nations refugee agency has called for the release of 149 Lao Hmong, including many children, who have been held in sub-standard conditions in a Thai detention centre since they were rounded up for deportation more than a year ago. “There is no basis for the detention of these 149 people,” Assistant UN High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller said in a news release. “They have been recognized as in need of international protection, and they should be allowed to take up the offer already made to them to leave Thailand and start to live productive lives and have a future in other countries.”The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes that efforts have been made by Thailand to improve somewhat the conditions in the Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre on the border with Laos; the people are now allowed out of their two cells for three hours a day.But these do not go far enough and overall conditions still fall well short of international standards, and no one should be detained for an indefinite period, UNHCR said. The refugees were rounded up for deportation in Bangkok on 17 November 2006. They were transferred on 8 December 2006 to Nong Khai.“The group – including many children – have now spent 400 nights in detention when they have not committed any crime,” Ms. Feller noted. “We are particularly concerned that 90 children, including five born in detention, are being held in these sub-standard conditions. They should not be locked up and should be getting a proper education.”UNHCR is also concerned for other asylum seekers and refugees, including many more children, held in various detention centres in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok.