Thursday, January 17, 2013
UNHCR to visit suspected Rohingya refugees in Thailand
Updated 17 January 2013, 16:28 AEST
The UN's refugee agency says it has received permission from Thailand to visit hundreds of people living in a refugee camp in the country's south.
Hundreds of illegal migrants have been rounded up and arrested this past week in remote farmland and forest along the Thai-Malaysia border.
The UNHCR says it believes many of the group are Muslim Rohingyas who've fled violent Muslim-Buddhist clashes in western Burma.
"We're getting some estimates from sources that around 13,000 people have left on boats from the Bay of Bengal in 2012," UNHCR spokeswoman, Vivian Tan told Radio Australia.
"This is probably a mix of Rohingya from Western Myanmar as well as Rohingya who have been living in the camps in Bangladesh for 20 years and there are probably some Bangladeshis in the group as well."
Ms Tan told the Asia Pacific program, the UNHCR would be seeking to confirm the identities of the people in refugee camps and provide appropriate assistance.
"For example, if they are Rohingya fleeing persecution in Western Myanmar and if they wish to seek asylum, then UNHCR would try to work with the Thai authorities to look at the asylum channel of things," she said.
"But if they are, for example, Bangladeshi migrant workers, then other mechanisms need to come into play.
"Also there are women and children among the group. They will need to have special arrangements made for them, to make sure these vulnerable groups are catered to."
An estimated 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma but are officially stateless.
The Burmese government denies them citizenship, regarding them as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, but Bangladesh does not recognise them as citizens either.