Friday, August 26, 2011

Japan to accept Burmese refugees from Umpiem camp

Friday, 26 August 2011 19:37 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Japan will accept the first batch of Burmese refugees from Umpiem refugee camp, the second largest refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border, in September 2013.

Camp officials, said: “In September 2012, Japan will scrutinize the list of refugees. In September 2013, they [the first batch of refugees] will leave from the camp [for Japan],” Saw Wah Htee, the chairman of the Umpiem refugee camp committee, told Mizzima.

Relevant Japanese officials and officials of the Mae Sot [on the Thai side of the Moei River opposite Myawaddy] branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the refugee camp in Tak Province in July and met with 200 refugees who are interested in resettling in Japan. Earlier, Japan accepted refugees from the Mae La refugee camp, the largest on the Thai-Burmese border.

The Japanese government has not disclosed that how many refugees it will accept. Currently, more than 25,000 people live in the Umpiem refugee camp located 75 km south of Mae Sot. Among them, 11,404 people are recognized by the UNHCR and the remainder have applied for refugee status with the UNHCR. Japan said that it would not accept people over age 60 or the handicapped. There are 140 refugees over age 70, and 100 who are handicapped in the Mae La camp, according to officials.

“There are three options for the refugees; going back to Burma, living in Thailand and resettling in a resettlement country. Among them, resettling in a resettlement country is the only option for a brighter future,” said Saw Wah Htee.

He said most refugees would like to resettle in the US; to resettle in Japan requires a longer time. The Umpiem refugee camp was set up in 1999; it has 16 quarters. More than 10,000 refugees from the camp have resettled in resettlement countries; 75 percent of them went to the US and the rest have resettled in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Canada and England.

Recently, Thai authorities gave instructions to officials at the Umpiem camp to compile a list that included four areas; the number of refugees who want to return Burma, the number of Burmese refugees who have already arrived in resettlement countries, the number of refugees who have applied to resettlement countries and the number of refugees who want to continue to live in Thailand.

Saw Wah Htee said that they had prepared a list with the education backgrounds of refugees and had made a list of people who were born in Thailand. A final list will be submitted to camp officials by September 7. Because of the instructions, refugees in the camp are concerned that Thai authorities will close the camp sometime in the future.

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