Thailand: resettlement numbers pass 10,000 milestone
Departures of refugees from Thailand under the world's largest resettlement programme passed the 10,000 mark earlier this week. The programme began in January, 2005. Nearly all of the refugees fled fighting and oppression in Myanmar over the past 11 years, and have been sheltering in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. The total camp population is 140,000.
The United States, which made an open-ended offer in 2005 to take ethnic Karen refugees from the camps in Thailand, has received the most refugees in the past two and a half years - 4,876 thus far. Departures for Australia since January 2005 total 1,774; another 1,269 have left for Canada. Other resettlement countries for Myanmar refugees are Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden.
Last week, UNHCR completed its initial mass registration of applicants for resettlement from Nupo and Umpium camps, the third and fourth camps to be included in the U.S. offer. Departures for the U.S. from Tham Hin camp began last year, and departures from Mae La camp began in May this year.
Departures are picking up, with more refugees leaving Thailand every week. More than 3,800 Myanmar refugees are scheduled to depart Thailand between now and the beginning of October, and we expect this number to rise even further.
In addition to the large-scale departures under the U.S. programme - where many refugees have gone to Syracuse, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fort Wayne, Indiana and Dallas - small numbers of refugees from as far afield as Africa, who had been stranded in Bangkok and other Thai cities, have also left to start new lives in third countries.
We are grateful to resettlement countries for providing a fresh start for refugees for whom returning home or integrating into their countries of asylum is not possible.