Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Myanmar nationals make up eighth-largest refugee group: UN

Nearly 1 million Myanmar citizens were forced from their homes, or remained displaced, in 2015, according to a UN report released yesterday.

Refugees from Myanmar made up the eighth-largest refugee group in the world last year.

More than 451,000 people who fled Myanmar were without permanent homes and another 451,000 were displaced within the country by the end of last year, the UN refugee agency’s report “Global Trends Forced Displacement in 2015”.

“Most of the refugees are the result of conflicts between different [armed] groups,” said President’s Office director U Zaw Htay. “The new government is focused on the peace process … and fixing the refugee situation is a very important part of the peace process.”

Thousands were displaced after fighting broke out in northern Shan State in February and March, according to a report from the UN earlier this year.

More refugees from Myanmar than from anywhere else in the world were resettled to another country in 2015, the UN report said.

Last year, 19,500 Myanmar refugees were resettled across the world. Malaysiatook on the bulk of those refugees. South Korea allowed 22 Kayin refugees, who had been living in camps in Thailand, to join their country last year, according to a United Nations report released in December. Other Myanmar refugees have resettled in the United States Australia, and elsewhere.

In the Asia and Pacific region, only Afghanistan saw more people displaced (2.7 million) last year, according to the report, which combines the UN’s data with information supplied by governments and partner agencies.

On the same day the UN’s report was released, Myanmar state media ran a story about incidents of human trafficking occurring in displacement camps set up in Laiza, Kachin State, along the Chinese border. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) living within the Kachin Independence Army-controlled area often cross into China looking for work. But about five times a year these refugees, mainly girls and women, are captured by human traffickers, sold, and then forced to have children and to work all day, the state-media account said.

Muslim refugees from Rakhine State left in record numbers last year, taking to overcrowded boats moored by human traffickers. The UNHCR estimated over 33,600 people travelled the well-worn smuggling route from the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Sea in 2015, a 34 percent rise from the previous year. More than 370 people died along the journey.

Last year was the worst year for displacement in recorded history, according to the UN report. More than 65 million people worldwide were forced from their homes by the end of 2015. The war in Syria was the world’s leading cause of displacement.