US stops resettlement program in June

US official visit Mae La camp

The US has announced its resettlement program for refugees from Burma is to stop in June this year.

The US Ambassador to Thailand, David Robinson visited Mae Lae refugee camp on Friday and told refugees that his country’s resettlement program for refugees from Burma will stop on June 5, 2013.

Saw Tha Kae, vice chairperson of the Mae La Camp Committee spoke to Karen News about the US official visit.

“His [David Robinson] visit was to let the people know of the US position. The message is only from the US. It doesn’t apply to other countries. Refugees who want to resettle to the US will have to apply for it before its deadline finishes on June 5. After that, the US will not accept anymore. They will stop.”

Saw Tha Kae said that the US official also made it clear that only people with UN registration card can apply for the resettlement to the US, and those refugees who are holding Provincial Admission Board registrations do not qualify.

Saw Tha Kae said that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees position on screening people with PAB registrations in order to upgrade them to UN status is not clear. Saw Tha Kae said that those people who are new and do not have any registration will not be able to resettle to the US.

Aung Khaing Tun, a refugee from Mae La Camp who is not registered spoke to Karen News.

“We want to be recognized and to be registered. I don’t hear any point made about the new people. Even though I will not have chance to resettle, I won’t go back to Burma. I will stay here for as long as I can according to what will be arranged for refugees.”

Representatives from the US embassy, UNHCR, the International Office of Migration (IOM) and the Resettlement Support Center attended the US Ambassadors announcement that its resettlement program had ended.

The US visit and announcement was preceded on January 16, by Thailand’s Interior Minister, Jarupong Ruangsuwan who visited Mae La Refugee Camp to assess the situation and reassured refugees that Thai government would not force them to return to Burma.

The seven refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border that are recognized by UNHCR are Mae La, Mae Rama Luang, Mae La Oo, Noh Po, Umphiem, Ban Don Yan and Tham Hin. The US has resettled refugees from these camps since 2006. Other countries that accept refugees from Burma are Australia, Canada, England, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, New Zealand, Belgium and Japan.

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