Narinjara News

Hunger strike demanding subsistence allowance from UNHCR

Dhaka, 10
th March 03: Beginning 11 am yesterday, two Burmese refugees, one Karen and another Rakhine nationals, have been on hunger strike at the Refugee Counselling Services Unit (RCSU) operating under the UNHCR, Bangladesh Chapter in Dhaka.

One of them, Hlaing Htwe is a Karen ethnic who was released from a Bangladeshi jail after the active intervention of the UNHCR officials, while the other, Khaing Win, a Rakhine ethnic, was recently recognized by the UNHCR as a refugee.  Till writing this report in the afternoon of today, the hunger strike has been unbroken and the officials in the RCSU office have also been waiting in their office to explain to the two that there is no policy on part of the UNHCR to give subsistence allowance for indefinite periods to any of the refugees here.  Rather they encourage the refugees to accept the seed money that they give for earning their livelihood, an official from RCSU told on phone to Narinjara.

On the other hand the Burmese refugees reiterate that, since they are not at home either with the local language or the local people, they have difficulty in earning livelihood, so that, attempts to start small-scale business by the seed money given to each of the refugees have all collapsed.  All of them are bankrupt now.

For sometime there has been brewing discontent at the delay and process of recognizing the mostly non-Muslim Burmese refugees in Bangladesh.  The   dissatisfaction at last led to a two-day long hunger strike by about fifty Burmese Rakhine, Mon, Karen and Chin in front of the local UNHCR headquarter at the diplomatic zone in Dhaka, the capital of Bangaldesh, on 6th and 7th February.  The strike was broken at the assurance given to sort out existing differences of opinion and dissatisfaction, said a leader of a Committee for Burmese Refugees, made up of non-Muslim Burmese refugees in Bangladesh.

Since then, a number of applications for the recognition of Burmese refugees have been turned down as the ‘interviews’  prerequisite for determining the status of a refugee set by the UNHCR  - resulted in futility for reasons only known to the UNHCR, Bangladesh Chapter.

On contacting the CBR, the leaders said that they would rather die than retreat from their demand.  #