Where does the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration work in the region?The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) provides humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable populations in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and India. In addition, the Bureau also monitors refugee, internally displaced persons (IDPs), vulnerable migrants and statelessness issues throughout Southeast Asia on an ongoing basis.
What are the major challenges for refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region?Burmese: The 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law resulted in the statelessness of approximately 750,000 Rohingya in Burma. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with the Burmese government to provide identification documents to the Rohingya and improve their legal status and access to services. UNHCR seeks to improve community participation and self-management, especially of Muslim women and girls, in decisions on education and reproductive health services. The U.S. government advocates on status and documentation issues. Additionally, policy is aimed at ensuring that the Rohingya benefit from improvements in services for healthcare, education, water and sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure.
Roughly 150,000 Burmese refugees live in nine official camps on the Thai-Burma border, of which an estimated 50,000 are unregistered. U.S. government funding provides life-saving assistance to refugees in these camps and to those fleeing ongoing conflict in Burma. UNHCR focuses on providing protection, while NGOs implement assistance activities. Approximately 3 million additional Burmese migrants in Thailand live in urban areas.
Approximately 29,000 Rohingya reside in two official camps in Bangladesh, where UNHCR and NGOs work in the areas of health, skills training, education, and community mobilization. Since mid-1992, an estimated 200,000–500,000 unregistered Rohingya reside outside refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar District of Southeastern Bangladesh. UNHCR requests the government of Bangladesh to fully register this population and improve their living conditions as well as those of the host Bangladeshi populations. The U.S. government urges the development of a comprehensive refugee policy and advocates for protection on behalf of vulnerable Rohingya.
In the recent past, civil defense groups trained by the Royal Thai Government intercepted, detained and pushed several sea-bound groups of Rohingya back out to sea without sufficient food and water. International attention allowed the issue to be raised in multilateral fora as the sea-bound Rohingya sought refuge in other countries, including Indonesia, India and Malaysia. The Bureau supports and encourages the development of humane and comprehensive solutions for sea-bound Rohingya.
Malaysia hosts an estimated three million migrants, one million of whom are considered illegal. Refugees are not distinguished from undocumented migrants and remain vulnerable to arrest and subject to detention, prosecution and deportation. A poorly trained and supervised paramilitary organization conducts periodic sweeps of those considered illegal migrants, including the over 90,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers from Burma recognized by UNHCR. While refugees and asylum seekers (particularly those without identification) are still concerned about harassment and raids, the protection environment has improved over the past two years. U.S government policy focuses on expanding life-saving assistance to urban Burmese refugees and asylum seekers; expanding protection; and ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers are protected against refoulement, arbitrary detention and other forms of violence and abuse, including access to registration and refugee status determination procedure.
An estimated 50,000–100,000 unregistered Burmese in India reside primarily in Mizoram State. In New Delhi, 11,000 are under UNHCR’s care, 5,000 of which are recognized refugees. Despite UNHCR subsistence allowances, they reportedly have difficulty integrating due to discrimination, the language barrier and a lack of livelihood skills appropriate for an urban area. The U.S. government continues to monitor the protection situation and assess the humanitarian assistance needs of vulnerable Burmese in India. (http://www.state.gov/j/prm/108723.htm)