Number of refugees leaving Thailand to start new lives passes 10,000 – UN

Number of refugees leaving Thailand to start new lives passes 10,000 – UN

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Since the beginning of the United Nations refugee agency’s programme to resolve one of Asia’s most protracted refugee problems, over 10,000 refugees have left Thailand to begin new lives in third countries.

Most of the refugees are from neighbouring Myanmar, and fled fighting and oppression in their home country during the past 11 years. A total of 140,000 of the refugees reside in nine camps along the border between the two South-East Asian nations.

“After many years of living in closed camps with limited opportunities for education and no opportunities to work, finally refugees have hope for a new life filled with exciting opportunities in a new country,” said Jeffrey Savage, Resettlement Officer in the Bangkok regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since UNHCR’s resettlement scheme kicked off in January 2005, 10,078 refugees have left Thailand.

The United States, which made an open-ended offer in 2005 to receive ethnic Karen refugees from Thai camps, is the destination of choice for nearly half of the refugees. Others have departed Thailand for Australia, Canada, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden.

“We are very grateful to the US and other countries for offering these opportunities and for their commitment for durable solutions for these refugees, who do not have the option of settling in Thailand,” Mr. Savage said.

“Obviously, most refugees would prefer to go home, but for those from Myanmar, this is unfortunately not a possibility either,” he added. “So resettlement is their one durable option.”

The number of refugees leaving Thailand is increasing weekly, UNHCR reported. “More than 3,800 Myanmar refugees are scheduled to depart Thailand between now and the beginning of October, and we expect this number to rise even further,” the agency’s spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva.

In addition to those from Myanmar, there is also a small number of refugees from places as far away as Africa who have also left to make new starts in third countries.