The Thai Committee for Refugees says the 96 members of Pakistan’s Ahmadi sect were freed on bail Monday in the first such large-scale release of detainees the authorities treat as illegal aliens.
The group negotiated the release with the state National Human Rights Commission and immigration officials.
The detainees, about a third of whom are children, were arrested last December even though all but two were granted official refugee status by the United Nations because they faced persecution in their homeland.
“We are feeling very happy … like a bird in a cage when it comes out,” said Mehmood, a freed 35-year-old refugee who declined to give his last name. “But we should not say about inside.”
The committee said conditions in the detention center had been described as ”overcrowded, inhumane and unhygienic,” with more than 150 people having to share cells designed for 30 to 40.
“In the women’s cell there were times when women had to stand so that some of them could sleep,” said Anoop Sukumaran, coordinator of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
“The children were often sleeping next to the toilets, which were overflowing with feces and urine. The conditions, to say the least, were horrific at some points.”
They will stay in Bangkok until they are resettled in a third country.