UNHCR and Thailand start huge refugee re-registration
BANGKOK, Dec 16 (UNHCR) - In a massive joint operation, UNHCR and the Thai government have started to re-register the entire population of the nine refugee camps in Thailand that are currently sheltering an estimated 140,000 refugees who fled from Myanmar some years earlier.
The 47-member registration team will move from camp to camp, from south to north, using UNHCR's newly-developed ProGres software to provide an accurate record of the number of refugees and to collect additional bio-data such as digital photographs and fingerprints required by the Thai government. All the nine camps, strung along Thailand's western border with Myanmar, are run by the Thai government with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) providing assistance. The exercise is expected to take five months, ending in April 2005.
The joint UNHCR-Thai Ministry of Interior re-registration operation began on December 2 in the densely-populated Tham Hin camp in Ratchaburi province which hosts some 9,000 refugees in a 16-hectare site. The refugees, from the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar, fled their homeland during a military offensive in early 1997 and crossed into Thailand to seek asylum. In the first few months after their flight, they were gathered in three camps. Later in the course of the year, they moved to Tham Hin, where they have been living in cramped conditions, lacking privacy, for the last seven years.
Every month in the camps, the refugees have their registrations checked, but information from this new re-registration will help UNHCR provide protection for the refugees and also assist with requirements for any eventual durable solution. The information gathered will also help NGOs provide better assistance to the refugees, many of whom have been living in the camps for nearly a decade. The refugee camp population in Thailand was first registered in 1999, but only very limited data was collected at that time.