The following article by Katie Mattern, published on IPS, states that “Gaza, South Africa and Thailand are among the world’s worst places to be a refugee according to the latest annual World Refugee Survey released here Wednesday by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).” (click IPS link above for rest of article). It goes on to say “15.2 million people qualified as refugees during 2008 – down from 16 million one year ago – and that more than 800,000 were currently seeking asylum in foreign countries.” Some 26 million more people were internally displaced (IDPs- those who fled their homes but had not crossed an international border).
The article continues to point out that “Thailand was cited as a poor performer as a result of its treatment of Rohingya refugees – in one case the Thai Navy towed un-seaworthy boats with nearly 1000 Rohingyas and scant food and water aboard into the open sea to prevent them coming from ashore – and its plans to forcibly repatriate Hmong refugees to Laos.”
This month in Thailand, refugees from fighting in Burma faced threats of being pushed back across the border. The article here explains the threat. According to friends in the area, trucks carrying aid were being turned away by authorities and not allowed into the area. Fortunately, Thai authorities responded graciously, reassigning those responsible, (link here) and the situation for the newly arrived is improving-the threat of repatriation is diminished for now.
Thailand and the UNHCR have faced many years of dealing with the challenge of refugees from multiple countries. Many people have found shelter there which has saved their lives, and helped them and their families to move to a life of freedom (not without difficulties!) through resettlement in other countries. This article from the Irawaddy highlights some of the challenges to the whole system, which views refugees as a burden to the state they end up in, best solved by sending them home.
“Some of the world’s poorest countries are also home to large populations of refugees. Chad, a constant on the U.N.’s list of least developed countries, has a refugee population of 268,000 while Sudan hosts 175,800 refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia.” (IPS link above)
“The report gave Europe a grade of D and the U.S. a grade of F for refoulement or returning refugees to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened. It also gave Europe and the U.S. grades of D for detention/access to courts.” (IPS link above).