UN group resettlement to third countries for Myanmar refugees on the Thai-Burma border will end sometime in late January 2014
Vivian Tan, the spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Asia, said that eight years after the programme began in 2005, and with the departure of tens of thousands of refugees to the United States since then, the number of eligible refugees is dwindling.
Fewer refugees show interest in this programme in recent years, signalling a natural end to it, Tan said.
The United States first announced to camp residents in January 2013 that the group resettlement program for registered refugees would begin wrapping up this year, and a camp in Mae La, Thailand, stopped taking new applicants months ago. The announcement was made at different times in different camps, and each camp was given different deadlines for eligible applicants.
There are more than 130,000 Myanmar refugees, mostly ethnic Karen who abandoned their homes in eastern Myanmar and fled to live in refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border in provinces such as Mae Hong Son, Tak and Kanchanaburi. Many refugees have been living in these camps for more than 20 years.
Tan, however, said that even after the group resettlement programme comes to an end, eligible refugees will still be able to express interest in individual resettlement to the United States and other third countries.
However, the US Embassy in Yangon denied the discontinuation of any resettlement programme. According to an official at the embassy, the refugees’ admission programme is ongoing and there is no halt to the processing of Myanmar refugees.