Wealthy countries should allow in more refugees, UN High Commissioner says

30 August 2006

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is urging the world's rich countries to provide more resettlement opportunities for those who have been forced to flee their homes across borders.

“Refugees are victims, not a threat,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres yesterday during a tour of the Thai government’s Tham Hin camp for Karen refugees. “They have been victims of conflict and persecution and sometimes they may be victims again if security concerns do not take into account their real situation.”

More than 140,000 Karen refugees, who fled conflicts in their home country of Myanmar, live in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.

“It's very important for people who have lived for 10 years without freedom of movement, without employment, without any hopes for the future, to have a chance to start a new life,” he said.

Mr. Guterres, currently on a four-day mission to Thailand, is travelling with the United States Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey, head of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. He thanked the US for welcoming two-thirds of the 70,000 refugees that are resettled each year.

He also paid tribute to Ms. Sauerbrey for her role in removing roadblocks to resettlement of the Karens in Tham Hin caused by anti-terrorism legislation. By year’s end, the United States plans to accept 2,700 Karen refugees from the camp.

 

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