DVB: UNHCR Presents First Draft of Repatriation Plan

July 29, 2015

 Children sit idly in their house in Mae La refugee camp, which currently shelters more than 40,000 people. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

Children sit idly in their house in Mae La refugee camp, which currently shelters more than 40,000 people. (Credit: Dene-Hern Chen)

MAE PA, Thailand – The UN’s refugee agency unveiled a draft plan this week detailing how to carry out the voluntary repatriation of 110,000 refugees residing in Thailand’s camps, drawing mixed reactions from camp leaders.

Thailand currently has more than 110,000 refugees from Burma residing in nine camps along the border. Open for more than 30 years, recent talks of repatriation has sent shockwaves through the camps as refugees remain wary about Burma’s current nominally civilian government. There are still reports of fighting within various parts of Burma, including Karen State, where the majority of the refugees are from.

The draft document, titled “Operations Plan for Voluntary Repatriation,” was presented by Iain Hall, senior coordinator for UNHCR, during a closed-door meeting to roughly 70 camp leadership members on Tuesday, along with relevant NGOs. Held every three months, this meeting is for various stakeholders working on refugee issues along the border to air their concerns and needs.

This plan comes at the heels of a “Strategic Roadmap for Voluntary Repatriation,” released earlier this year, which deals more generally with the principles of the voluntary return of refugees, should they choose to take that step. The Operations Plan presented on Tuesday provided more details to facilitating the return, such as transportation logistics, helping people with specific needs (like children, elderly, and those who are disabled), and ensuring voluntariness among refugees.

Blooming Night Zan, the joint general-secretary of the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), which oversees camp management in seven of the border camps, said in a terse email that the KRC does not intend to help UNHCR with the operations plan. Her main concerns were that “[the KRC is] not involved or participating in it, and it is not ours,” she said in the email.

Read more at Democratic Voice of Burma