How to Visit the IDC

IDC stands for the Immigration Detention Center. IDC is a jail for foreigners, and intended for criminals. However the majority of the people who end up in these ill equipped jails are refugee families who come to Thailand to seek asylum from the UN.

Thailand treats refugees as illegal immigrants regardless of their status with the UN. However, since international law can make it difficult for the jail to return people to their home country, many of them can be held in the crowded IDC detention facility indefinitely.

Major problems inside the IDC include:

  • Overcrowded cells
  • Dubious access to medical care
  • Low quality or inedible food
  • Violence
  • Detention of children
  • Unclean drinking water

The good news is that people are able to visit the IDC. Your short visit can bring some light and much needed supplies to people living inside. There are many groups visiting and to visit an entire family, volunteers are needed to have each member of the family released into the visitation area. The visitation area is a large group near the cells separated by a gate on the detainee side, and a gate on the visitor side. The visitation is public and the area becomes crowded easily. Often people may need to shout at each other through the fence to be heard. All items being brought into the facility are searched and even food packaging should be easy to inspect. Suspicious items or giving too much of any certain item, may result in these donations being rejected or confiscated.

What to bring detainees when visiting:

  1. Fresh fruits and cooked food
  2. Hygiene products such as toothpaste, toothbrush, cooling powder, soap, sanitary products for women, detergent, etc
  3. Bread 
  4. Cash (can be used to buy items inside)
  5. Water 
  6. Face masks  
  7. English books
  8. Clothes 

Items that are not allowed:

  1. Any canned products 
  2. 3 in 1 coffee packets 
  3. Juice
  4. Medicine or pills
  5. Scissors, shavers or any sharp objects

Visiting times happen Monday – Friday (closed on holidays), and happen in two rounds. The first round is from 9:45-10.30 (registration is from 8:30 – 9:30 am), followed by an 11:15 – noon session (registration is from 10 – 11 am).

Arrive early as these times are subject to change, and only 85 people are allowed in each session. If you miss the registration period, they will not give you the forms needed to visit, and you will have wasted your trip to IDC.

IDC Location and Map:

The IDC is located on Suan Phlu road at Bangkok’s former immigration headquarters, about a 10 minute walk into the street. You’ll find the compound of buildings shortly after passing the Thung Maha Mek Police Station. The closest public transportation is the Lumpini MRT, or the Sala Daeng BTS stations, but both would be very long walks.

Once inside the compound take the first driveway (across from Suan Phlu Soi 5), and follow it 100m. The jail building will be on the left and you will likely find people already lining up to submit their documents.

If you need copies, there are copy shops on the other side of Suan Phlu, near Soi 7. The best place to purchase freshly prepared food or produce is in Suan Phlu soi 8, or the Suan Phlu Market across the street from soi 8.

To register you need these documents:

  • Your passport (with a valid visa).
  • A photocopy of these pages (there is a fax/copy shop located across from the entrance on Suan Phlu).
  • Name, nationality, cellroom number, and ID number of the detainee you would like to visit. (Which I will provide)
  • A local address that you can use to fill out the form.
  • Conservative dress (i.e. no tank tops for men or women)
  • Bring your own ink pen for filling out the forms.
  • Bring a permanent marker to Label your bag of items. (Put the name and idc number of the person your are visiting on the outside of your bagged goods and water bottles.)

Technically, one visitor is only allowed to visit one detainee. Fortunately, mothers and children under the age of eighteen are no longer typically held in the Immigration Detention Center (as of early 2019). During normal hours, fathers (males) are kept separate from mothers (females) and their children. Fathers only get to see their children during visiting hours if two visitors visit each parent.

IDC will give each visitor a basket for things to give to detainees. It’s recommended to bring only a basket full of food, necessities, books, and/or toys for the families. Any larger than a basket and they won’t let it in.

Before entering the visitation courtyard, you’ll have to store your belongings and personal items in a locker. You’ll be able to bring in small things such as notepads, pens/pencils, or money to give to detainees. After storing things in the locker, the officers will pat you down and go through the basket for contraband.

As of recently, you will not be able to leave early and will have to spend the entire hour in the visiting area.

Things to note:

  1. It is extremely hot (bring a bottle of cool water for yourself, a cool cloth while you wait in registration area.)
  2. There is no fee to visit detainees, but be sure to have cash that can be used to buy supplies for detainees or to gift to them so they can purchase items inside the jail.
  3. You cannot bring medicines without special permission
  4. Be respectful of guards as they can keep you from entering at their discretion

Visiting with Courageous Kitchen

Courageous Kitchen does not provide assistance with locating people believed to be detained, or getting items to detainees. We do occasionally have volunteers visiting, but due to lack of support and funding, these activities are not organized regularly. Please use the information above to organize your own visit, as we may not be able to assist everyone interested.