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UNHCR – Refugee status depends on Thailand’s permission

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Mae Sot told refugees at Umpiem Mai camp their registration depends on permission from the Thai government even if the UN agency is willing to grant UN refugee status to people.

Umpiem_Mai-refugee-campStaff from the UNHCR Mae Sot office were in Umpiem Mai refugee camp on May 16 to explain the refugee registration process to the camp residents.

A member of the refugee camp committee who attended the meeting with UNHCR told Karen News.

“The UN said the refugee registration process depends on the Thai government. The UNHCR said they couldn’t register refugees without Thailand’s permission. The meeting also discussed family immigration and resettlement issues concerning help for refugees in the camp whose family members have already resettled in a third country.”

Three refugees from each of the 16 resident sections in Umpiem Mai camp attended the UNHCR meeting.

Ko Kyi Win, a refugee who lives in section 13 told Karen News.

“Most of the refugees in our section are new arrivals [since 2005]. We only get the refugee rations, we cannot freely move around the area. No one officially recognize us as refugees. We have requested UNHCR to recognize us as refugee.”

People attending the meeting said the UNHCR representative gave assurances that there was no plans or procedures yet in place for repatriation of refugees. The UN agency staff told the meeting that there would not be any enforced sending refugees back to Burma. Refugees were told that they if they are not willing to return UNHCR would continue supporting the refugees.

This is second meeting between the UNHCR and Umpiem Mai camp refugees on the issue of refugee registration.
The Thailand Burma Border Consortium estimate that 15, 207 refugees live in Umpiem Mai camp that is located 87kms from the Thai border town of Mae Sot – 90% of the refugee population are Karen