Karen Human Rights Group’s Statement on World Refugee Day 2017
Today is World Refugee Day, around the world the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees is commemorated. According to the UN, this year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee through the #WithRefugees petition.
According to the UNHCR, in the beginning of 2017, there were still around 100,000 refugees from Myanmar living in camps in Thailand along the Thai-Myanmar border of whom around 83% are Karen, 10% Karenni, 4% Burmese, 1% Mon and 2% of other ethnicities. Also, the UNHCR reported that between 2005 and 2017, around 100,000 refugees have been resettled from these camps to third countries, mostly the United States, Australia and Canada.
As KHRG mostly reports on the situation inside southeast Myanmar and not inside the refugee camps, KHRG’s information mainly covers the plight of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The exact number of IDPs in southeast Myanmar is unclear but January 2015 estimates by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre puts the number as high as 398,000.
IDPs’ and refugees’ main concerns to return to their places of origin in southeast Myanmar are their safety, access to land, and how their return is decided. IDPs and refugees currently perceive that their safety cannot be guaranteed if they return. They still fear their safety is threatened due to continued fighting in southeast Myanmar, landmine contamination, ongoing militarisation, political instability, and the risk of abuse by Tatmadaw, Border Guard Forces (BGFs) and some Ethnic Armed Groups.
The Myanmar Government, countries of asylum, UNHCR and other humanitarian actors must ensure that IDP and refugee return is genuinely voluntary, without direct or indirect coercion, safe, sustainable, and with full respect for the dignity of the returnees. It should also be a participatory process in which IDPs, refugees and host communities are involved in monitoring the safety and conditions of their potential voluntary return.
Download full statement in English HERE.