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Myanmar refugee emergency (10 May 2021)

May 10th, 2021  •  Author:   United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  •  2 minute read
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With over 10,000 refugees fleeing Myanmar in just three months since February 2021 because of violence and the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, neighbouring countries in the region are witnessing increasing arrivals of people from Myanmar seeking international protection.’ UNHCR and partners stand ready to support host countries and communities that have generously provided safety to these refugees to assist them and to find solutions to their plight. Persons already abroad who fear return to Myanmar should also have access to protection.

Key protection messages

Words matter. The men, women and children fleeing Myanmar because violence since February 2021 are refugees. As refugees, they should be allowed access to the territory to seek asylum and be protected against refoulement, which means that they should not be returned to their country as long as it is not safe. People from Myanmar already abroad should not be returned when seeking international protection and should be referred to the appropriate authorities. Refugees have the right to return to their homes voluntarily, in safety and with dignity.

While a solution to this crisis lies in Myanmar, the international community must provide protection and support to fleeing refugees. Governments are encouraged to keep their borders open and allow refugees from Myanmar safety and protection in line with long traditions of offering sanctuary to those in need. In order to respond to humanitarian needs, it will be important to provide support and adopt an inclusive approach in responding to the problems of refugees fleeing their country, including access to territory, protection from detention and abuse, and access to basic services. Humanitarian access to arriving refugees is essential to provide the necessary assistance. As the identification of individuals with specific needs and vulnerabilities is a key element of any humanitarian response, it is important to strengthen existing systems for the identification of unaccompanied minors and separated children, survivors of violence and torture and persons suffering from trauma amongst others.

Where COVID-19 related bans or border closures are implemented, such measures must not result in denying refugees an effective opportunity to seek asylum or result in refoulement.

As in any humanitarian crisis, the importance of upholding the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum is paramount and States would need to assess the situation of arrivals from Myanmar carefully so as to identify armed elements and separate them from the civilian refugee population.

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