THIS WEEK more than 500 refugees are expected to return home as part of a voluntary repatriation process led jointly by the Thai and Myanmar governments.
The third such programme, supported by UNHCR and its partners, aims to provide returning refugees with a chance to rebuild their lives in their home country following decades of displacement in Thailand.
The refugees will depart from five camps on the Thai-Myanmar border and cross over the Kayin and Kayah states.
After being received by authorities at the border, the returnees will then head for reception centres, where they will be provided with assistance, including immigration documentation and medical check-ups. From there, they will go to their final destination.
Recognising improved conditions in parts of southeastern Myanmar, the UN refugee agency has been supporting this government-led process since late 2016, by helping refugees who have expressed a desire to go home to do so in safety and dignity.
UNHCR provides counselling and information on conditions back home and also transports the refugees and gives them initial reintegration support. In the two previous movements in October 2016 and May 2018, 164 refugees left Thailand for Myanmar. UNHCR continues to monitor their reintegration and transition to life in present-day Myanmar.
In recognition of the generosity of host communities in welcoming returnees, UNHCR and its partners will continue reintegration efforts through the implementation of community-based projects.
Such initiatives are tailored to the needs of each community, and designed to create and support livelihood opportunities, facilitate access to basic services, as well as ease additional pressure on community infrastructure.
“Thailand has been a generous host, sheltering the refugees for many years.
“This latest return is an encouraging step, enabling refugees who want to return to go back in safety and dignity,” said James Lynch, UNHCR’s regional representative and coordinator for Southeast Asia.
“UNHCR will continue to advocate for a range of solutions towards ending the refugees’ protracted displacement and encampment in Thailand.”
There are now more than 97,000 Myanmar refugees, mainly of Karenn and Karenni ethnicity, living in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.