Burmese refugees in Umphiem camp in the northern Thai province of Tak have the chance to resettle to Japan in 2012.
Saw Wah Htee, the chairman of the Umphiem refugee camp committee, spoke to Karen News and said the Japanese government representatives and officials from the United Nation High Commission for Refugee visited the camp in July and meet with camp officials.
“They [representatives of Japan and UNHCR] said that people who want to resettle to Japan can apply in the coming year. They will be processed step by step until they leave the camp for Japan.”
The Japanese government has not disclosed how many Burmese refugees it will accept and according to the camp official Japan will only take refugees who are registered with the UNCHR and they will be processed within a year so the refugees would be settled in Japan by September 2013. The camp official explained that the Japanese government had explain the specified criteria that they would decide who would be selected for resettlement. This included people without disabilities, refugees younger than 60, families of no more than four members and the household principal not older than 40.
Upon arrival, resettled refugees will be supported financially including learning the language, literacy, cultural and other vocational trainings for six months.
Refugees at the camp said they have mixed feelings about being resettled in Japan.
Naw Bawh Nyaw, a camp resident said that she and some of her neighbors are interested.
“Many people that I know of are interested to resettle in Japan. People say that in Japan, we earn as much as we work. I am also interested, but the limitation of family members means I can’t apply to go.”
Other Umphiem refugees said the natural disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March killing many means some people are hesitating to apply.
This latest announcement is not the first time Japan has accepted Burmese refugees. In 2010, Japan accepted 27 refugees from Mae La refugee camp, the biggest camp on the Thai-Burma border with an estimated population of 45,000.
The Umphiem refugee camp was set up in 1999 and the Karen Refugee Committee estimates, it has a population of around 25,000, both registered and unregistered refugees.
There are nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border – Mae La, Umpheim, Nu Po, Mae Rama Luang, Mae La Oon, Tham Hin, Ban Don Yang and the two Karenni camps; with the total population of 147,000 people.