Rumors continue to circulate among refugees about the closing of the U.S. resettlement program. In an effort to get its message to refugees about the issue, the International Rescue Committee’s Resettlement Support Center has issued document with 20 key questions and answers. Karen News has reprinted it in full.
FAQ / Key Messages for Beneficiaries Regarding Deadline for Expression of Interest in the U.S. Group Resettlement Program
1. Why is the U.S. closing the group resettlement program for Burmese refugees in the nine camps in Thailand?
After almost seven years of large-scale resettlement and the departure of more than 62,000 Burmese refugees to the United States, the number of eligible Burmese refugees in the camps has been reduced significantly. We are reaching the natural conclusion of the group resettlement program that has specific eligibility criteria for Burmese refugees who were re-registered by UNHCR in 2005 and formally registered by the Government of Thailand. We are setting deadlines for eligible Burmese refugees to apply for resettlement. These deadlines will vary based on when resettlement operations began in each camp. The resettlement program will continue until we have completed the processing of every application received by the deadline for each camp. We realize that not all Burmese who are eligible for resettlement consideration are interested in resettlement. We encourage those who are interested in resettlement to apply by the camp specific deadline.
2. Why is the U.S. closing the program now? Why not wait until it is safe to go back to Burma/Myanmar?
Refugees are not being asked to make a decision about returning to Burma. Instead, the smaller number of refugees who are eligible for U.S. resettlement are being asked to decide if they want to pursue this opportunity. Those who do not exercise this option will be able to remain in the camps until safe and voluntary returns are possible. The announcements will take more than a year and the resettlement program will continue until we have completed the processing of every application received by the deadline for each camp; we expect the resettlement program to continue for at least two years. The U.S. Government is committed to providing assistance to Burmese refugees residing in the camps until durable solutions are found.
3. Does this mean that UNHCR and the U.S. Government believe it is ok to go back to Burma/Myanmar now?
The U.S. Government and UNHCR believe that refugees should only return home by their own choice and in conditions of safety and dignity. We do not believe conditions of safety and dignity have been achieved in Burma/Myanmar yet.
4. My husband/wife/child is unregistered. I don’t want to leave them behind. How can we be resettled together?
If a family is interested in resettlement, but not all family members are registered, they should still express their interest before the deadline. UNHCR and the RSC will work with you to determine resettlement options. Rolling Announcement – Final Public Version – Page 2
5. What if I change my mind after the deadline and want to go to the U.S. later?
This will be the final deadline to express interest in this group program. It is better to express interest now and change your mind later. The U.S. will not be able to consider anyone for the group program after the deadline.
6. If I apply now, how long will it take for me to be resettled?
Every case is different. Expect your case to take at least one year, but many cases take longer. You can help by attending all appointments when called. Missing appointments will result in delays.
7. I am old and afraid that I can’t support myself in America. What assistance will I get in America?
In the U.S., most adults work until they are at least 65 years of age, and refugees are generally expected to do the same unless there are other family members who can support them. There are government assistance programs available to adults 65 years and older who meet the requirements. These may include cash assistance, health insurance, and money to help buy food.
8. I am physically disabled. I am afraid that I won’t be able to work in America. What will happen to me in America if I resettle there?
Refugees with disabilities often have more options in the U.S. than they have ever had before. It is against the law for any employer, hospital, school, or government agency to discriminate against someone because they have a disability. In a job, accommodations are often made so that a person with a disability is able to work.
For those with severe disabilities that may prevent work, there are various types of government assistance available. The specific requirements and amounts of assistance can vary from location to location.
9. I am 16 years old but my parents don’t want to resettle. Can you help me go to America?
You must be at least 18 years of age by the deadline to resettle without your parents. Your age will be determined by the age on your registration document. Once you turn 18, see UNHCR to find out what options are available to you.
10. My husband/wife does not want to go, but I do. Can I be resettled? Can my husband/wife come later?
This is a very difficult situation and each family must decide what is best for them. In most cases, you can resettle without your spouse but there is a risk you could be permanently separated. You and your spouse should talk to UNHCR or RSC so you can be counseled about your specific circumstances, the risk of separation and whether or not your spouse can to follow you to the U.S. in the future. Rolling Announcement – Final Public Version – Page 3
11. I am already in the process for U.S. resettlement; do I need to do something now?
No, if you have received confirmation that your application was received by the U.S. Government for processing, no action is required. If you have not had any contact with RSC over the last six months or are uncertain about the status of your case, you can always check with UNHCR or RSC to re-confirm your interest. If your case is on hold, applicants must talk with RSC or UNHCR to determine if further action is needed prior to the deadline.
12. I applied for U.S. resettlement before, but then told RSC I didn’t want to leave right away. Can I still resettle to the U.S.?
If you told RSC you were not ready to resettle or you formally withdrew your application, you must talk to RSC (or UNHCR) as soon as possible and before the deadline to let them know you are still interested. The U.S. will not be able to consider anyone for the group resettlement program after the deadline.
13. My spouse is out of camp until after the deadline, what do I do?
Every family member must be in camp and report to UNHCR to express interest. Please do not have anyone stand in for your missing family member. If you already have an RSC case, one adult case member should report to the RSC.
14. I was rejected by the U.S. but I can’t return to Burma/Myanmar. How can I be resettled?
Please see UNHCR staff to review your case to determine if you should be referred to another country.
15. RSC/UNHCR told me that my case is on hold. Will I be resettled?
Please see the organization that told you your case was on hold (either RSC or UNHCR). They can help you understand why the case is on hold and whether you need to act before the deadline.
16. I am unregistered but I can’t go back to Burma/Myanmar. Can the U.S. Government or UNHCR help me get registered and resettled?
Unregistered refugees are not eligible for this group program or resettlement. This deadline would not apply to you.
17. I don’t want to resettle in the U.S. I want to go to a different country. How can I be resettled to a country other than the United States?
Please see UNHCR staff to review other resettlement options.
18. UNHCR told me that I can’t be resettled because it is not my picture on the household registration document. This was a mistake. How can this be corrected so I can be resettled?
See UNHCR about this matter. Rolling Announcement – Final Public Version – Page 4
19. I applied a long time ago but no one called me for interview. What is happening with my case?
Talk to UNHCR and RSC to find out what is happening with your case. Do it soon so if you have not expressed interest in the U.S. group resettlement program yet, you can do so before the deadline.
20. Can I go to Burma/Myanmar if I resettle in America?
You can go Burma/Myanmar in the future but it is best to wait until you become a U.S. citizen to do so.