Assessing the State of Economic Wellbeing and Protection for Urban Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Thailand

As a regional hub for migration, light manufacturing, and trade in gems, drugs, and illegal timber from Burma, the industrial town of Mae Sot, Thailand, epitomizes life for migrants on the Thai-Burma border. This study surveyed 772 Mae Sot residents, comparing Thai residents to Burmese migrants, both with and without work authorization in Thailand, in order to shed light on what it means to be vulnerable in Mae Sot. In-depth qualitative interviews with 50 town residents and 15 key informants deepen and complement quantitative findings from the survey. Four major domains of vulnerability were identified: employment security, household security/physical safety, community security/access to justice, and assets and housing. Migrants were always more vulnerable than their Thai peers, but undocumented migrants were not always more vulnerable than documented migrants. With regards to household security and employment, documented and undocumented migrants demonstrated approximately equal levels of vulnerability. Undocumented migrants were the most vulnerable only in community security and assets and housing.

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.