Worst Places to Be A Refugee

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).

 

 

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Still need: soap, toothbrushes, clothes….

The Irrawaddy today states: “If the fighting continues, at least 8,000 more villagers will have to escape across the border,” said Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU).

The key thing now is to provide them with more adequate shelter,” said Sally Thompson, the deputy head of the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC). “They have food and medical attention, but the flimsy, makeshift homes they are now in provide inadequate protection from the weather.”

Local Thai authorities are drawing up an Action Plan, which would then be discussed with the international aid agencies and local NGOs before implementation.

Many recent refugees are crowded into the grounds of a Thai temple, a couple of kilometers inside the Thai border, where they lack access to basic necessities, aid workers said.

“They are in relatively good condition,” said Kitty McKinsey, the regional spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mae Sot.

“They are not emaciated, though many have walked for more than seven days to escape from the Myanmar [Burma] army,” she told The Irrawaddy. “They hurriedly left with nothing but the clothes on their back.”

Ma Theingyi, 33, the mother of five children, said: “We desperately need soap, toothbrushes and cooking utensils. More than anything though, we need clothes for our children.”

Zipporah Sein  , (see link for full statement) requests the world community to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the recently displaced and support for the many Karen CBOs working to provide both emergency needs and further community development for those displaced in Karen State.

As the Mom in the article says, they still need soap, toothbrushes, clothes for their kids, and cooking utensils.  Another source in the area asked for hammocks so they are out of the mud to sleep.  Partners Relief & Development, and Free Burma Rangers/World Aid, Inc., are a couple of the organizations contributing to that effort.

A Man Named Rainbow Tells Their Story

News of the families and communities being driven from their homes continues to come from the border, both through conventional news sources, and those working there.  In the first link below, a man named Rainbow tells some of his community’s story.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8095137.stm

QGPT 06 our camera 166

One of many kids in Ler Per Hur

(We met Rainbow briefly several years ago, when, after we delivered rice donated from folks here in Seattle. We accidentally disrupted his class-our friend Noah (at about 6′ 2″+) stood out in the crowd.  The kids were  fascinated with this friendly big guy in the bright yellow shirt (and distracted from their  lessons), so Rainbow told Noah to come teach them something).  

A rainbow, in the Bible, was a sign God would not forget His promises, (and that the rain had stopped). Here, according to friends yesterday, they hope it keeps raining–the shelling stops when it rains…..

God, please remember Rainbow, and all the others under attack at the moment.  They are not a news story-they are real people having families, having schools, doing life in a real hard place.   

Some of the news links from this week:

http://www.irrawaddymedia.com/highlight.php?art_id=15891

http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/news/mortar-bombs-hit-ler-per-her-idp-camp-up-to-200-used-as-slave-labour

Continued Exodus from Karen State

The Irrawaddy (link to story) today reports several thousand more people  continue to flee the ongoing attacks by the Burmese junta and DKBA in southern Karen State. 

I tried to get my mind around this, and I can’t.  As a country girl from Whidbey Island, I tried to picture all of the people in Langley (1018) and Coupeville (1915), being chased from their homes to avoid either mortars or being taken for forced labor and other crimes, instead of just going about their business trying to make a living and raise their families.  Then I still had to add in another 3000 people from surrounding unincorporated areas of the county to come up with this many people .  It’s a lot of people!  I probably don’t know 6000 people, do you?

Within Range of Mortars

Five kilometers (about 3 miles) is just within range of an 81 mm mortar.  You may not care, since there’s none pointed at you, but families in Ler Per Her IDP camp (within range of the mortar mentioned above) are increasingly concerned by them and some are heading to Thailand in case their camp (housing about 1200 people) is attacked again.  (It has been burned down several times in the past by the Burma Army.  (See today’s report from the Karen Human Rights Group ) for details. School at Ler Per Hur

The US Campaign for Burma lists ways we can all help speak for their freedom.   In other countries, murderers go to jail. Here they are in charge, while the UN and others make statements showing their concern….   Ler Per Hur kids
Partners Relief & Development is helping ethnic leaders provide basic necessities for those impacted by the continuing oppression of the Burma Army, including the new arrivals at Ler Per Hur.  They can use our help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still More Families Displaced by Burma Army

Friends on the ground in Burma now report another 300 IDPs have just arrived at a village near the Thai-Burma border (along with the 200+ who arrived days ago). These people are fleeing the continued fighting and oppression of the Burma Army and DKBA, usually arriving with only what they can carry.  While this is a more secure location than being under attack in their home villages, this is still a place where kids have to learn in school what a landmine looks like so they don’t accidentally pick one up!  

Urgent needs (other than peace and freedom) in order of priority:

1.  rice and cooking oil
2.  plastic tarps for emergency shelters
3.  mosquito nets
4.  blankets

Anyone wanting to help out with life-saving resources can donate through our friends at Partners Relief & Development  .