Narinjara news


How are the Burmese refugees in Bangladesh?


Dhaka, 8 December 02: The Burmese refugees who have been recognized by the UNHCR in Bangladesh are facing difficulty living in the country for lack of job and livelihood, said Khaing Paw Lunn, the President of the Executive Committee for Burmese Refugees (Bangladesh), recently set up with an aim to work for the rights of the refugees.


He said, there are at present about thirty Burmese refugees recognized by the local chapter of the UNHCR, while there are thirty more yet to be recognized. Those who were receiving monthly subsistence allowance from the UNHCR prior to 1998 and those who are issued with refugee ID cards at present are facing difficulty as most of them find it impossible to survive through personal endeavours at small businesses.


When asked about the failure of doing small business in Bangladesh Paw Lunn said, “First, the Burmese refugees are not good at the local language, then there is a large percentage of jobless even among the population of the host country, besides the lump sum given, amounting to about US$ 500, to them as loan is not enough to start a sustainable small business. “


He also said that the Burmese refugees met the Deputy Representative of the UNHCR on 19 November to voice their disappointment. The refugees requested the representative to stop giving lump sum to the refugees and resume the subsistence allowance as admissible under the UN law.


The representative answered that at present, there is no refugee agreement between the government of Bangladesh and the UNHCR, and that the UNHCR is operating in Bangladesh only for the Rohingyas on the invitation of the Government of Bangladesh. For this UNHCR does not have a different budget for the Burmese refugees (other than the Rohingyas) for which they could not offer monthly allowance of any sort to anyone.


At present it takes at least six months for an applicant to be recognized by the UNHCR (Bangladesh). Within that period no travel allowance is given to the applicants who have to come all the way from the border areas to Dhaka, the capital. Many refugees after initial application process never show up because they either do not have the money required to travel to Dhaka or do not have a place to go for passing the waiting period.


Narinjara came to know that, besides the handful of applicants in the capital, there are thousands of Burmese refugees living in the south-eastern districts of the Bangladesh. Many of them have already left for the Indian Territory, Mizoram.


To a question of what the CBR intended to do if they are not granted with their demands Paw Lunn said that they would opt for seeking cooperation of various international groups if their requests fail.


Meanwhile the CBR has asked for safety and security of the yet to be recognized Burmese refugees living in the south-eastern parts of Bangladesh, resettlement in another country, to recruit a regular interpreter for the Burmese refugees in the Dhaka UNHCR office, and offer capacity building training to the refugees recognized already.


Since 1988 when there was a mass movement for democracy in Burma, these people crossed the border to escape the wreath of the ruling military junta, which took oppressive measures upon them to quell the dissent. #


NOTE: The Committee for Burmese Refugees (Bangladesh) was established in Dhaka on 27 August 02 with a seven member (working) committee. The aims and objects of CRB as mentioned in a statement include: 1. realizing the rights of the UNHCR-recognized Burmese refugees in Bangladesh; 2. assisting those Burmese refugees yet to be recognized by the UNHCR; 3. facilitating in the advancement of their education; 4. providing health care facilities to them; and 5. improving their way of life by providing overall assistance.