Monday, June 22, 2009

Arakanese Urban Refugees Protest UNHCR in Bangladesh

By Takaloo, Cox’s bazar (Narinjara): Arakanese urban refugees taking shelter in Bangladesh staged a protest on Sunday outside the UNHCR office in southern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, for alleged discrimination and neglect against the refugees.

"We are now in great trouble because the UNHCR has stopped not only our subsistence allowances but also assistance for medical treatment and children's education," said Phoe Hla, an urban refugee.

He added that the urban refugees were being discriminated against particularly in relation to resettlement in third countries, but were also facing neglect of aid by the UNHCR.

More than 200 Arakanese democracy activists who fled persecution by the Burmese military regime are recognized as refugees by the UNHCR in Bangladesh, according to the community. The UNHCR office in Dhaka was unavailable for comment on the issue.

"I am not able to send my only child to school because the UNHCR has halved the monthly educational assistance of 1200 taka for her," said Ma Fru Chay, a widow refugee with one daughter. 1200 taka equals approximately 17.65 US dollars.

She added that she has had great difficulty maintaining food and shelter due to the reduction in UNHCR assistance.

Most refugee parents have been unable to send their children to school since the UNHCR stopped their monthly subsistence allowances. The allowances were cut after they implemented a self-reliance business project that involved an average lump sum payment of 15,000 taka, or 220 USD, for each head of the family, say the refugees.

They said that the self-reliance projects failed shortly after implementation due to local competition and discrimination against Burmese.

"The UNHCR never listens to what the refugees have to say. It operates according to its plans and targets without practical assessment of the refugees' situations," said Khaing Pray Thein, another refugee.

He added that, "There is a great communication gap between the UNHCR and refugees. The UNHCR never tries to protect the vulnerability of refugees who are struggling for their livelihoods in remote rural areas. It usually delays its response or action on cases regarding health and protection, even though they receive adequate notice from the refugees."

According to the refugees, one UNHCR recognized urban refugee named Min Wa died in custody in Chittagong jail last year, after the UNHCR failed to step in and protect him according to their role.

Most of the refugees would prefer to be resettled in a third country so they can rebuild their lives, because they can not return to their homes and find it increasingly difficult to lead their daily lives in Bangladesh.

"The UNHCR should open resettlement for us. It should consider how we have to risk for our livelihoods here. We are badly suffering in every aspect of our lives. We have nothing except the hope of resettling in a country, where our rights are regarded and secured, for rebuilding our future," said one refugee.

They added that some western countries have shown their sympathy in offering resettlement for the urban refugees, but the UNHCR has rejected their offers on the grounds of preventing the exodus of more Arakanese refugees from Burma.

"More than 50 Arakanese had fled persecution after the Burmese junta cracked down on the Saffron Revolution protests in September 2007, and they have sought asylum here, but most have been rejected by the UNHCR on the claim that they do not meet the refugee status determination criteria," said U Khaemida, a Buddhist monk who has recently been registered as an urban refugee.

He said that newly recognized refugees and asylum-seekers are suffering difficulty due to the lack of UNHCR assistance.

"Short-cut solutions of the UNHCR have worsened the plight of urban refugees," he said.

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too