Thailand/Laos: UNHCR urges conclusion of screening discussions before more Hmong are deported

Briefing Notes, 1 June 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 June 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We are concerned to hear that the Thai authorities are considering deporting 48 newly arrived Lao Hmong back to Laos from Thailand. The Lao Hmong issue is complex and we appreciate the concerns of the Thai and Laos government on the irregular migration aspect and don't wish to complicate the issue. But there may be people coming who have humanitarian reasons for building a life in a third country and we would be concerned that people like this may be deported. We strongly urge both the Laos and Thai governments to conclude their discussions on a screening mechanism to allow the proper identification of different needs and put on hold any deportations until a conclusion is reached on this process.

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Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

Over 2,000 refugees from Myanmar have crossed the border into Thailand in recent months. Most claim to be fleeing renewed conflict and human rights abuses in Kayin state, Myanmar. The mainly ethnic Karen refugees say their houses and villages have been burned and civilians killed. Many were weak upon arrival, suffering from illnesses such as malaria, after a long, dangerous journey to the camps through heavily mined areas. The refugees have been arriving at government-run camps, mainly in the Mae Hong Son area in northern Thailand.

UNHCR is working with the Thai government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the new arrivals are admitted to the camps and provided with adequate shelter and protection. Shelter has been a major issue as the capacity in many refugee camps has been overwhelmed. In a breakthrough in mid-May, Thai authorities agreed to build proper houses for the new arrivals.

There are currently 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living in nine border camps in Thailand, many of them have been there for up to 20 years.

Refugees from Myanmar: Ethnic Karens Seek Shelter

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