Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Thailand’s harsher overstay rules have destroyed my life

Feb 07. 2019
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For 10 years, I lived in Thailand as a law-abiding citizen. I don’t do drugs and don’t even drink alcohol. In 2015, at the age of 38, I started experiencing panic attacks every time I left my apartment.

I was in a state where I was only able to go out once, at 2am, to the local 7-Eleven to buy food and other necessities. Of course, I was unable to renew my visa. I tried taking a bus to Cambodia but, 10 minutes after we left the station, I had to ask the driver to stop and let me out. I was in full panic attack mode.

In 2016, I started feeling better and decided to fix my visa issue by taking a flight to Vietnam. I paid my Bt20,000 penalty fee at Don Mueang and received a three-year ban from entering Thailand. I knew there was a good chance that was going to happen but the feeling I had when I realised I would not be able to see my friends anymore or access my belongings was one of complete hopelessness.

After two years of living on my savings, I was nearly broke. Shortly after, I attempted to end my life, failed and was offered help with repatriation by the Belgian Consulate in Saigon.

I unfortunately accepted the offer. Since the day I landed in Belgium, two years ago, I have been homeless and have drifted from shelter to shelter. I have always had a stable life, have worked my entire life, but I am now in a position where the only option seems to end what I can’t even call a life anymore.

I understand the need to enforce immigration laws, I truly do. But immigration officers should also have the discretion to take personal situations into account.

Nickolas H

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