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Bangladesh: First Myanmar Muslim refugees resettle to Canada

Briefing notes

Bangladesh: First Myanmar Muslim refugees resettle to Canada

15 December 2006 Also available in:

The first group of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar left their long exile in a refugee camp in Bangladesh for resettlement in Canada yesterday, Thursday.

The 13 men, women and children arrived in Toronto on Thursday afternoon after an exhausting road trip from Cox's Bazar to the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and then a flight via London. They were generally excited to be leaving the refugee camp where they had lived for 15 years. They are all scheduled to settle in Kitchener, Ontario.

This is a humanitarian gesture by Canada while we seek durable solutions for more than 26,000 Rohingyas in the two camps in Cox's Bazar - Nayapara and Kutupalong. Canada has also accepted another nine Rohingyas for resettlement under its 2006 quota, but they are expected to travel in late January.

We welcome any efforts that could herald some movement on ending one of our most protracted refugee situations in Asia.

The Rohingyas are a minority Muslim ethnic group from Northern Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan) in Myanmar and have close linguistic and ethnic ties with groups in Bangladesh. They have fled persecution in successive waves since the early 1960s, heading mainly for Bangladesh and Malaysia. The current military government in Myanmar denies the Rohingyas are an indigenous ethnic group, and denies them citizenship.

The Rohingyas in the camps in Cox's Bazar are the remainder of a group of 270,000 refugees who fled into Bangladesh in 1992 to escape persecution by the military junta. Over the years, we have helped more than 236,000 Rohingyas to go home, but more than 26,000 remain in the camps, afraid to return. An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 also live around Cox's Bazar, but outside the camps.