UNHCR welcomes acceptance of resettled refugees in Sheffield, UK

More than 50 refugees from Myanmar have arrived in the United Kingdom as part of a joint government-UNHCR resettlement initiative aimed at helping long-term refugees with protection problems in their country of first asylum.

Myanmarese refugees leaving London's Heathrow airport to be briefed before being resettled in Sheffield.   © Exile Images/H.Davies

LONDON, May 19 (UNHCR) - More than 50 refugees from Myanmar have arrived in the United Kingdom as part of a joint government-UNHCR resettlement initiative aimed at helping long-term refugees with protection problems in their country of first asylum.

A group of 25 refugees are currently undergoing several days of briefing and induction courses outside London before being transferred to Sheffield in the north next week. Earlier this week, another group of 26 Myanmarese was transferred to Sheffield under the programme organised in co-operation with the city authorities.

The Myanmarese arrival at Heathrow airport is a continuation of the UK's programme and commitment under the Gateway scheme to resettle 500 refugees in Britain each year. Most of the Myanmarese arriving this week are women and children.

"The UN refugee agency is grateful to Sheffield Council for offering places to the Myanmarese and encourages other British communities to participate in the joint UK/UN Gateway scheme," said Christian Mahr, UNHCR Deputy Representative in the UK.

Before arriving in the UK, the refugees had lived for most of the last decade in refugee camps along Thailand's western border with Myanmar. There are more than 120,000 refugees in Thailand who have fled persecution in Myanmar. The majority of the Gateway arrivals are ethnic Karen but also included ethnic Rohingya.

This week's arrivals bring to more than 200 the number of people brought to the UK under the joint Government/UNHCR Gateway Protection Programme. Since its inception in 2003, the Home Office-managed Gateway scheme has resettled refugees from war-torn Liberia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and now Myanmar.

Reception and short-term accommodation for the new arrivals in Sheffield are provided by UNHCR partners, which include the Refugee Arrivals Project, Migrant Helpline and Refugee Council.

By Ahmed Momoh
UNHCR London