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Myanmar: Should I stay or should I go?

20 June 2016 - 11:15am
Source: IRIN Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Myanmar refugees face tough choices in Thailand

The aroma of roasting coffee beans filters through Jladdy’s hut, nestled into a jungle-covered hill in the Mae La refugee camp in northern Thailand. Crouched over the roasting tin, he laughs when he recalls his arrival more than 20 years ago.

“I thought we would stay here for a week, not years,” says Jladdy, who fled across the border in 1994 when government soldiers arrived in his ethnic Karen village in Myanmar.

He is one of 105,261 refugees from Myanmar that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says remain in nine camps in Thailand after escaping the ethnic wars that have bedevilled their home country for six decades. Their long stay in Thailand may now be coming to an end.

Myanmar’s new government has told IRIN it will soon announce a plan to repatriate the refugees in Thailand. This plan is timely as international donations and resettlement spots in other countries are drying up due to other refugee crises around the world.

Read the full article on IRIN

Myanmar: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar (A/HRC/32/18) (Advance Unedited Version)

20 June 2016 - 9:01am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 29/21, which requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report on the “human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, particularly the recent incidents of trafficking and forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims”.

  2. The report is based on information received by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) from various sources, including the Government of Myanmar, United Nations entities, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and civil society. It also considers reports of the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (Special Rapporteur) since 1992. The report takes into account written and oral comments received from the Government of Myanmar.

II. Context

  1. Myanmar is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Asia, with 135 recognized “national ethnic groups” as per the 1982 “Citizenship Law” (Citizenship Law), categorized into eight major “national ethnic races”: Bamar (approximately two-thirds of the population), Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. An estimated 90 per cent of the population are Buddhists, four per cent Muslims, four per cent Christians and under two per cent Hindus. Most Christians belong to ethnic minorities, including Chin, Kachin and Kayin. Some Muslim communities are officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group (like the Kaman), others are known as “Bamar Muslims”, “Chinese Muslims” or “Indian Muslims”.

  2. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine State. They self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture, and claim a longstanding connection to Rakhine State. Successive governments have rejected these claims and Rohingya were not included in the list of recognized ethnic groups. Most Rohingya are stateless.

  3. In 2014, the Government conducted the first census in 30 years. A directive prohibiting Rohingya from identifying as such led to their de facto exclusion from the official count. Data on ethnicity and religion are yet to be released. Data gaps, combined with lack of access to parts of the country, pose significant challenges in analyzing the situation of minorities.

  4. Ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar have a complex and contested history. The 1947 Panglong Conference envisaged the creation of a federal union based on voluntary association and political equality. Yet, upon independence in 1948, Myanmar became a quasi-federal union largely dominated by the Bamar ethnic group. Subsequent claims by ethnic minorities for self-determination, greater autonomy and an equitable share of power and resources have driven non-international armed conflicts, varying in scope and intensity. Following military assumption of power in 1962, ethnic minorities were increasingly excluded from positions of authority facing restrictions, inter alia, in education, use of languages and religious freedom.

  5. Myanmar is undergoing significant transformation. In 2011, the Government embarked on wide-ranging reforms, including opening up democratic space after decades of military control. This culminated in historic elections on 8 November 2015, and the transfer of power to a civilian Government on 31 March 2016. Yet, the military retains 25 per cent of seats in Parliament, giving it a de facto veto on any Constitutional amendment. Moreover, the Commander-in-Chief appoints key Ministers: Home Affairs, Border Affairs and Defence.

  6. In May 2015, 700,000 individuals from minority communities were disenfranchised. Muslim candidates were disqualified from standing for election, and the current Parliament does not count any Muslim member.

  7. On 15 October 2015, the Government and eight of the over 20 ethnic armed groups in Myanmar signed a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Yet, armed conflict persists in Kachin and northern Shan States, along with sporadic skirmishes including in Chin, Kayin and Rakhine States. The new Government – the most ethnically diverse Government in decades – has proposed a “21st century Panglong Conference” to advance the peace process.

  8. Rakhine State is one of the poorest states in Myanmar, with limited access to basic services and livelihood opportunities for all inhabitants. There are long-standing grievances between Rohingya Muslims (population of just over one million) and Rakhine Buddhists (hereinafter “Rakhine”) (around two million), and both communities and Bamar-majority-led central governments. Many Rakhine contest the Rohingya’s claims of distinct ethnic heritage and historic links to Rakhine State. They view the Rohingya as “illegal immigrants” (“Bengali”), with no cultural, religious or social ties with Myanmar. Some Rakhine also perceive that international assistance has focused on the Rohingya at their expense. The Rakhine have been subject to longstanding discrimination by past military governments. Kaman Muslims from Rakhine State are an officially recognized ethnic group. Yet, they also face entrenched discrimination and other human rights violations (A/HRC/28/72, para. 41). Since 2012, incidents of religious intolerance and incitement to hatred by extremist and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups have increased across the country. Rohingya and other Muslims are often portrayed as a “threat to race and religion”.

  9. Against this backdrop, tensions have occasionally erupted into violence. The last major outbreak occurred in June and October 2012, causing hundreds of deaths, injuries, destruction of property and the ultimate displacement of 140,000 people (A/67/383, paras. 56–58; A/HRC/22/58, paras. 47–48). Around 120,000 individuals remain in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in central Rakhine State, with ongoing segregation between Rakhine and Rohingya communities.

  10. Systemic human rights violations and lack of opportunities have triggered irregular migration flows of Rohingya from Rakhine State to Thailand and Malaysia, in the same boats as irregular migrants from Bangladesh. Trafficking and smuggling networks have facilitated these flows. Over 94,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis are believed to have departed since early 2014, with a peak of 31,000 in the first half of 2015. In May 2015, Thailand and Malaysia cracked down on international smuggling networks, and 5,000 irregular migrants were abandoned at sea. Malaysia and Indonesia ultimately offered temporary shelter to migrants affected by the Andaman Sea crisis, provided the international community grant resettlement and repatriation within one year. Many of those rescued at sea remain detained in shelters, camps or immigration detention, facing uncertain futures. The policies and practices of discrimination against Rohingya, a key root cause of irregular migration from Rakhine State, remain to be addressed as part of larger reforms to protect all minorities in Myanmar.

  11. Meanwhile, access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses has been severely lacking. The military and other security forces have generally enjoyed impunity. Endemic corruption and limited capacity and will to conduct effective investigations and prosecutions add to a general lack of public trust in the administration of justice. Structural issues impacting on the independence of the judiciary and legal profession remain. Judicial independence has been further undermined by the executive branch’s undue influence and interference in politically sensitive cases. Social and cultural stigma prevents victims of sexual and gender based violence from reporting. Minorities face additional obstacles further limiting their access to justice, including language, geography and fears of reprisal.

  12. In his inaugural address, President U Htin Kyaw outlined four main priorities for the new Government: national reconciliation, peace, a Constitution that will lead to a democratic federal union, and improved quality of life. In April 2016, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated the importance of national reconciliation and the rule of law for all citizens. Recent steps taken by the Government include the establishment of a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and the transformation of the Myanmar Peace Centre into the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre. According to the new Government, addressing the situation in Rakhine State has been “one of the highest priorities on its agenda” and it calls for “more time to find durable solutions”. On 30 May 2016, the Government formed the “Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine State” with the State Counsellor as its Chairperson. The objectives of the Committee are to “bring peace, stability and development to all people in Rakhine State”.

  13. Key to Myanmar’s transformation is the need to address ongoing and past human rights violations, which may otherwise undermine the transition. The present report identifies patterns of entrenched discrimination against minorities and suggests measures to address them. This will be a challenging process that will require resolve, resources, and time. Specific constraints include the continued influence exercised by the military in critical areas of governance. In Rakhine State, this is further complicated by the highly politicized and polarized environment, including tensions between political parties and continued activity by armed groups. Yet, the new Government has a unique opportunity to create positive momentum by taking crucial steps to halt discrimination against minorities in law and practice.

Myanmar: Zeid urges action to address serious rights violations against Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar

20 June 2016 - 8:59am
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (20 June 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday urged the new Government in Myanmar to take concrete steps to put an end to the systemic discrimination and ongoing human rights violations against minorities as he released a new report that highlights the plight of these minorities, in particular the large Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State.

The report, requested by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2015 on the situation of “Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, documents a wide range of human rights violations and abuses. The Rohingya are suffering from arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence, and limitations to their political rights, among other violations, the report says. Four years after the 2012 violence in Rakhine State, some 120,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims are still living in camps for internally displaced people. There has also been an alarming increase in incitement to hatred and religious intolerance by ultra-nationalist Buddhist organisations. The report raises the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity.

“The new Government has inherited a situation where laws and policies are in place that are designed to deny fundamental rights to minorities, and where impunity for serious violations against such communities has encouraged further violence against them,” Zeid said. “It will not be easy to reverse such entrenched discrimination. This will be a challenging process that requires resolve, resources and time. But it must be a top priority to halt ongoing violations and prevent further ones taking place against Myanmar’s ethnic and religious minorities.”

“The Government has expressed its early intentions publicly. I am encouraged by the constructive dialogue we have had with it in the last few weeks. I hope we can start working together towards implementation of some of the recommendations contained in my report”, High Commissioner Zeid added.

The report states that in northern Rakhine State, “arbitrary arrest and detention of Rohingya remains widespread. Arrests are often carried out without grounds, formal processing or charges, until release is secured by payment of a bribe. For those formally charged, fair trial guarantees are often not respected.”

“Rohingya and Kaman populations face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. Failure to comply with requirements can result in arrest and prosecution. Restrictions routinely lead to extortion and harassment by law enforcement and public officials,” the report adds.

These restrictions result in severe impact on access to livelihoods, healthcare – including emergency treatment – and education. In townships surrounding Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, Muslims cannot freely access township hospitals, and emergency cases must be referred through an onerous process to Sittwe General Hospital. Delays in treatment can be life-threatening.

Rakhine has one of the lowest literacy rates in the country, and non-citizens, including Rohingya, are excluded from studying certain professions including medicine, economics and engineering. Some 30,000 Muslim children in IDP camps depend on temporary learning spaces supported by humanitarian organizations. “The consequences of lost years of education are devastating for future livelihood opportunities and the ability of Rohingya and Kaman youth to contribute to Myanmar’s development,” the report states.

In northern Rakhine State, a series of discriminatory policies and directives from local authorities targeting the Rohingya, known as “local orders”, have been in place for many years. Rohingya children have not been issued birth certificates since the 1990s, further restricting their rights, and increasing their vulnerability to violations.

The report also outlines human rights violations and abuses against other minorities, including in the context of armed conflict. These include deliberate targeting of and indiscriminate attacks against civilians; use of child soldiers; forced labour; sexual and gender-based violence; violations of housing, land and property rights; and restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. In Kachin and northern Shan States, where fighting has intensified, there are ongoing reports of violations by all parties to the conflict. The report warns that violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the various armed conflicts may amount to war crimes.

“The signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last year was a significant step, but this was only a starting point,” High Commissioner Zeid said.

He called on the authorities to begin a programme of comprehensive legal and policy measures to address the scope and pattern of violations against minorities in Myanmar. “While the issues are complex, there are a number of steps that can be taken to bring some measure of quick relief to these communities,” he said.

For example, the report recommends that all discriminatory local orders in Rakhine State be abolished, restrictive bureaucratic requirements for emergency medical referrals be removed, and a roadmap be established for lifting all freedom of movement restrictions. It also calls for a comprehensive inquiry into the situation of minorities in Rakhine State and other areas of Myanmar, and independent investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including those committed by law enforcement officers.

The report notes that Government has taken some initial steps, including creating a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs; proposing a national peace conference; and establishing the “Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stablity and Development of Rakhine State”.

“We stand ready to support the Government of Myanmar in ensuring a successful transition to a society based firmly on the rule of law and the protection of human rights for all,” Zeid added.

ENDS

The full report can be accessed here:

The official response of the Government of Myanmar to the report can be accessed here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session32/Documents/CommentsbyMyanmartoHCreport.pdf

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )

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Indonesia: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (14-20 June 2016)

20 June 2016 - 7:31am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Timor-Leste

Myanmar

As of 15 June, approximately 28,000 people in Saging, Ayeyarwady, Bago regions and Rakhine State have been affected by floods. Of the total affected population, over 25,000 people are in Sagaing Region. At least 14 people have been killed and over 280 houses destroyed due to the floods, according to the union and state level government. The State and Regional governments are leading the response, conducting initial assessments and providing food, non-food items, tarpaulins, medicines and cash in the flood-affected areas. Humanitarian partners are closely working with the local authorities to provide targeted support.

28,000 people affected

Philippines

As of 16 June, some 1,000 families (4,900 people) remain displaced in the municipality of Matalam, North Cotabato province due to a land dispute involving armed groups associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front which began in December 2015. The displaced people continue to live in nine evacuation centres. The municipal government and barangay authorities have been providing food and non-food items.

Indonesia

From 17 to 20 June, the Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics (BMKG) issued heavy rainfall and high tide warnings for parts of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and East Nusa Tenggara. In Central Java province, floods and landslides caused 35 deaths while 25 are still missing according to the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB). At least 100 houses were damaged. On 17 and 18 June, flooding also occurred in West Sumatra province causing one death. Relief assistance is being provided by local authorities and civil society, with support from the provincial and national governments.

35 people killed

Timor-Leste

El Niño-induced drought continue to severely affect 120,000 people in the municipalities of Lautem,
Viqueque, Baucau, Covalima and the Oecusse Special Economic Zone. To address the longer term impact of the drought, partners have allocated resources to respond to the food, nutrition, water and sanitation, livelihoods and health of the affected people. Government line ministries supported by UN and Humanitarian Partnership Agreement agencies are preparing to conduct a post-El Niño Watch Assessment to further refine response priorities in the coming months.

120,000 people at risk

Myanmar: Council conclusions on EU strategy with Myanmar/Burma (20 June 2016)

20 June 2016 - 7:02am
Source: European Union Country: Myanmar

Council conclusions on EU strategy with Myanmar/Burma

  1. The European Union has a strategic interest in strengthening its relationship with Myanmar/Burma and welcomes the peaceful transfer of power following credible and competitive elections in November 2015. The new government has an historic opportunity to consolidate democracy and to achieve peace, national reconciliation and prosperity. In addition to benefiting Myanmar/Burma and its people, this could further strengthen ASEAN and enhance stability in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover it has the potential to serve as a positive example to the region. The European Union reiterates its commitment to support this remarkable transition through the full use of all instruments at its disposal.

  2. The Council welcomes the Joint HR-Commission Communication: 'Elements for an EU strategy vis-à-vis Myanmar/Burma: A Special Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity'. The Communication lays out a plan for a coherent, ambitious and forward-looking EU engagement and intensified cooperation with the country to overcome the formidable challenges it faces.

  3. The European Union will expand its engagement with all stakeholders, including the military, to support Myanmar/Burma and its new civilian government on its path to become a vibrant democracy with full respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights. Building effective democratic institutions, including an independent and impartial judiciary and a strong civil society, and the promotion of good governance will require particular attention to achieve this objective. The European Union stands ready to support the Government of Myanmar/Burma in this endeavour. Implementation of the recommendations provided by the EU Election Observation Mission will be highly important to advance electoral reforms and to improve future electoral processes. Constitutional reform remains central to consolidating democratic governance.

  4. The Council welcomes the release of political prisoners, activists and human rights defenders. It looks forward to the unconditional release of all those who remain arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their fundamental rights. The early amendment and revoking of some restrictive laws and listing of many others for review is a positive step towards increased democratic space. The European Union encourages the Government of Myanmar/Burma to continue and bring all existing legislation into line with international law and standards. It urges the Government of Myanmar/Burma to implement the recommendations of the resolution on the 'Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar'' adopted at the 31st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, including the establishment of a country office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  5. The European Union calls on the Government of Myanmar/Burma to protect the rights of persons belonging to minorities through a comprehensive approach including by efforts to reduce poverty and ensure inclusive development. Restrictions on the freedom of movement should be lifted and unimpeded access to basic services should be ensured for all, in particular for health and education. The European Union strongly encourages initiatives to promote religious and ethnic tolerance and social inclusion and fight against all kinds of radicalism. Those who incite hatred, hostility and violence against minorities need to be held accountable. The Council encourages the Government of Myanmar/Burma to take measures to end violence against and trafficking of women and girls.

  6. The European Union takes positive note of the efforts of the Government of Myanmar/Burma to begin work towards addressing the challenges of Rakhine State, including the situation of the Rohingya. This will require inclusive development in all areas and a political process, including solving citizenship for stateless persons in a non-discriminatory manner through a transparent, voluntary and accessible procedure and ending displacement. The European Union will engage in dialogue with the Union and State governments as well as all local actors to help build trust with the ultimate aim of promoting human rights and prosperity for all.

  7. Myanmar/Burma's transition cannot succeed without putting an end to conflict. Much progress has been achieved over the past years but peace remains fragile and incomplete. Ongoing clashes in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States result in continued human suffering and undermine confidence in the peace process. Fighting has to cease immediately and disputes need to be resolved through negotiation. The Council welcomes the decision of the new Government of Myanmar/Burma to make peace and national reconciliation a key priority. It is essential that all stakeholders, particularly ethnic armed groups which are yet to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, ethnic and other political parties and civil society, including women and youth, can effectively participate in the forthcoming political dialogue and the so called '21st Century Panglong Conference'. The process needs to be in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. The European Union reaffirms its strong commitment to peace and national reconciliation and will continue to support the process politically and in particular through contributions to the Joint Peace Fund.

  8. The Council reiterates its significant support for Myanmar/Burma's transformative agenda, including through the bilateral Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 and joint programming of EU and Member States' development cooperation, recognising that joint programming must be voluntary, flexible, inclusive and tailored to the country context. A review of EU bilateral development cooperation will be undertaken, if possible in 2017, once a new national comprehensive development plan becomes available. It is of the utmost importance that aid is delivered effectively and sustainably, where possible through government systems, reaches all communities, including those in conflict affected areas, and supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Enhanced donor coordination remains vital to achieve this objective.

  9. The European Union welcomes the expansion of bilateral trade with Myanmar/Burma since the reinstatement of trade preferences under the "Everything But Arms" scheme in 2013. The conclusion of an Investment Protection Agreement will provide further economic opportunities and contribute to sustainable growth while underscoring commitment to responsible investment. Economic and labour market reforms are key to increased competitiveness which can bring about development and employment opportunities and promote fundamental labour rights and practices in order to help transform the country into an attractive trade and investment partner. In this context, the European Union stands ready to assist Myanmar/Burma in its efforts to reform its labour law and align it with international labour standards, including through the 'Initiative to Promote Fundamental Labour Rights and Practices in Myanmar'.

  10. The European Union looks forward to cooperating with Myanmar/Burma as an active member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in strengthening the regional integration process on the basis of the EU-ASEAN enhanced partnership as defined in Council conclusions on EU-ASEAN relations of 22 June 2015 and the Joint HR-Commission Communication: 'The EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose'.

  11. The Council calls on the High Representative and the Commission to work in close cooperation with EU Member States on the implementation of the priorities identified in the Joint Communication.

Myanmar: Human traffickers target IDP camps in Laiza

20 June 2016 - 4:04am
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: China, Myanmar

Reports of human trafficking are emerging from camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs), situated within KIA controlled territory along the Myanmar – China border, as some IDPs make the journey into China in search of employment to resolve their livelihood woes.

The IDPs, who fall victim to human traffickers, make the risky journey into China driven by a lack of food rations within their IDP camp; in order to put their children through education; and to accumulate money for potential medical expenses, it is known.

“Human trafficking was rather prevalent between 2013-14.

Usually, about five people are trafficked every year. For some, they marry a Chinese man because of their fondness for the language.

While we’re able to rescue some, we completely lose contact with others and can’t save them.” said Daw Kha Dumg, responsible for assisting with women’s affairs at the Je Yang IDP camp in Laiza.

It is reported that approximately fifty per cent of IDPs in camps within KIA territory earn a daily wage working on coffee, banana and farming plantations over the border in China.

“They leave in the morning and return at night. Girls are also among them. They cross over into China illegally with some ending up being arrested by the Chinese authorities. If they can’t pay off the police they are sent back [into Myanmar].” said U Naw Sai, a Je Yang IDP camp committee member. Two women, who were human trafficked from the Je Yang IDP camp in Laiza back in 2011, returned in April this year, but Chinese nationals followed them back to the camp in order to take them back to China.

It is reported the IDP camp prohibited them from taking the girls and returned across the border empty handed.

“They said she would be looking after children. They brought her [to China] saying she would be paid 300 yuan a month, but she was sold to a rich Chinese man for 23,000 yuan instead.

She gave birth to two children with this man and they forced her to work all day long. In the end, she managed to escape and return to the IDP camp.” said the mother of one of the two girls.

The most prevalent years of cases of IDPs falling victim to human traffickers was 2012, 2013 and 2014, with incidents reportedly declining since 2015.

“Their livelihoods, and the well being of their children, would be at a complete loss if they weren’t to go [and find work in China].” added U Naw Sai. “Our camp committee ventures into China to try and find [IDPs from the camp] as soon as we get word [that they’ve been human trafficked].

But, we can’t help them all; there are cases that we don’t hear about.” Laiza currently boasts three IDP camps in which people are warned about the activeness of human traffickers in the region, while an employee from one of the camps reported that Chinese men have been forbidden from entering into the camps and offering money or property to parents of girls in the camp with the objective of marrying them.

Myitmakha News Agency

Malaysia: OIC holds Iftar with local Rohingya community in Malaysia

20 June 2016 - 3:52am
Source: Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Country: Malaysia, Myanmar

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in partnership with HUMANiTi Malaysia, an NGO, held an iftar to celebrate Ramadan by bringing together more than 500 members from the local Rohingya refugee community.

Rohingya children and families joined in the blessings of this holy month at the iftar event held at the Saidina Othman Ibn Affan Mosque, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, 18 June 2016.

The Director General of the OIC Cabinet and Special Advisor, Dr. Yusuf Al-Othaimeen, welcomed the guests and delivered a speech on behalf of the OIC Secretary General, Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani, in support of the humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering and hardship faced by Rohingya refugees. He extended sincere thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the OIC Special Envoy for Myanmar, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar and the Organizing Committee for the Iftar. Dr Al-Othaimeen also expressed thanks to the Malaysian authorities for their support to the Rohingya people and to the OIC’s efforts to alleviate their suffering.

“The overwhelming concern on intolerance in Myanmar, which caused the mass migration of Rohingya refugees to neighbouring countries has escalated into a regional crisis. In this, it has caused human rights abuses and crises with severe humanitarian consequences, statelessness, segregation, gender-based discrimination, mass outflow of refugees and other threats to state security,” said Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar, OIC Special Envoy for Myanmar and President of HUMANITI Malaysia.

Efforts are being intensified to address the deplorable situation faced by the refugees, with emphasis on providing basic access to education for children. Among the recent outreach programmes conducted include the distribution of school bags and books to Rohingya children in the Districts of Klang (300 children), Ampang (600 children) and Serdang (120 children). This was made possible with allocation received from the OIC Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF) headquartered in Jeddah.

“To ensure the sustainability of humanitarian efforts for the Rohingya community in Malaysia, several measures have been taken by HUMANiTi Malaysia to ensure refugees continue to have equitable access to basic needs and livelihood opportunities, including medical attention and education”, said Ahmad Tarmizi Mukhtar, Secretary General of HUMANiTi Malaysia. Efforts are also underway to enhance the refugees’ resilience towards potential conflicts and natural disasters.

The iftar event also brought together representatives from the OIC member countries, Foreign Ministry, Prime Minister’s Department, NGOs and various private entities who have come forward to support.

World: Un être humain sur 113 est déraciné ; le déplacement forcé atteint un niveau sans précédent

20 June 2016 - 3:30am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Les conflits et la persécution ont causé des déplacements forcés à travers le monde ayant fortement augmenté en 2015 pour atteindre le plus haut niveau jamais enregistré, ce qui représente d’immenses souffrances, selon un rapport publié aujourd’hui par le HCR, l’Agence des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés.

Selon le rapport statistique annuel du HCR sur les Tendances mondiales (en anglais), analysant les déplacements forcés dans le monde entier sur la base des statistiques communiquées par les gouvernements, les organisations partenaires - y compris l'Observatoire des situations de déplacement interne (IDMC) - et les informations internes au HCR, quelque 65,3 millions de personnes étaient déracinées à la fin 2015, en comparaison de 59,5 millions seulement douze mois plus tôt. C’est la première fois que le seuil des 60 millions est franchi.

Le total de 65,3 millions comprend 3,2 millions de personnes dans les pays industrialisés qui, à la fin 2015, étaient en attente d’une décision en matière d’asile (c’est le plus grand nombre jamais enregistré par le HCR), 21,3 millions de réfugiés à travers le monde (soit 1,8 million de plus qu’en 2014 ; c’est par ailleurs le nombre total de réfugiés le plus important depuis le début des années 1990), et 40,8 millions de personnes contraintes de fuir leurs foyers, tout en restant au sein des frontières de leur propre pays (soit une augmentation de 2,6 millions par rapport à 2014 et le plus grand nombre jamais enregistré).

Par rapport à la population totale de la planète Terre comptant 7,349 milliards d’habitants, un être humain sur 113 est aujourd’hui déraciné ; il est demandeur d'asile, déplacé interne ou réfugié. Ce niveau de risque n’avait jamais été observé auparavant par le HCR. En tout, il y a davantage de personnes déracinées aujourd'hui que la population du Royaume-Uni, de la France ou de l’Italie. 

[1]

Le déplacement forcé est en hausse depuis au moins le milieu des années 1990 dans la plupart des régions mais, ces cinq dernières années, le rythme s’est accru. Il y a trois raisons : les situations provoquant d’importants flux de réfugiés durent plus longtemps (par exemple, les conflits en Somalie ou en Afghanistan durent désormais respectivement depuis trois et quatre décennies), de nouvelles situations dramatiques ou des reprises de conflits se produisent fréquemment (le plus important étant aujourd’hui en Syrie, mais aussi ces cinq dernières années au Soudan du Sud, au Yémen, au Burundi, en Ukraine, en République centrafricaine, etc.) et, enfin, le rythme auquel des solutions sont trouvées pour les réfugiés et les personnes déplacées internes est en baisse depuis la fin de la guerre froide. A la fin 2005, le HCR enregistrait en moyenne six personnes déracinées chaque minute. Aujourd’hui, ce nombre est de 24 par minute – soit presque le double de la fréquence habituelle de la respiration d’un adulte.

« Davantage de personnes sont déracinées par la guerre et la persécution, c’est déjà inquiétant en soi mais surtout les facteurs menaçant les réfugiés se multiplient également », a déclaré le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés Filippo Grandi. « Un nombre terrifiant de réfugiés et de migrants décèdent en mer chaque année ; à terre, les personnes fuyant la guerre ne peuvent poursuivre leur voyage car les frontières sont fermées. Des politiques se dressent contre l’asile dans certains pays. La volonté des nations de travailler ensemble – non seulement au bénéfice des réfugiés mais aussi dans l’intérêt collectif de tous les êtres humains – est testée aujourd’hui et c’est ce type d’unité qui doit prévaloir à tout prix. »

3 pays génèrent la moitié des réfugiés dans le monde ...

Parmi les pays couverts par le Rapport statistique du HCR sur les Tendances mondiales, plusieurs se distinguent : la Syrie avec 4,9 millions, l’Afghanistan avec 2,7 millions et la Somalie avec 1,1 million représentaient à eux trois plus de la moitié des réfugiés relevant de la compétence du HCR à travers le monde. La Colombie avec 6,9 millions, la Syrie avec 6,6 millions et l’Iraq avec 4,4 millions comptaient quant à eux le plus grand nombre de personnes déplacées internes. Le Yémen génère le plus grand nombre de nouveaux déplacés internes en 2015 - 2,5 millions de personnes, soit neuf pour cent de sa population.

 ... Et ils sont pour la plupart dans le sud

La lutte de l’Europe pour gérer plus d’un million de réfugiés et de migrants arrivés via la Méditerranée a souvent fait la une en 2015. Néanmoins, le rapport montre que la grande majorité des réfugiés à travers le monde se trouvait ailleurs. Au total, 86 pour cent des réfugiés relevant de la compétence du HCR en 2015 se trouvaient dans des pays à faible et moyen revenu à proximité des situations de conflit. Ce chiffre augmente à plus de 90 pour cent du total des réfugiés dans le monde, si on inclut les réfugiés palestiniens sous la responsabilité de l’UNRWA (l’Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient), l’agence-sœur du HCR. A travers le monde, la Turquie est le plus important pays hôte avec 2,5 millions de réfugiés. Par ailleurs, le Liban a accueilli davantage de réfugiés - en comparaison de sa population - que tout autre pays (183 réfugiés pour 1000 habitants). Par rapport à sa capacité économique, la République démocratique du Congo accueillait le plus grand nombre de réfugiés (471 réfugiés pour un dollar de PIB/habitant, en parité de pouvoir d’achat).

Le plus grand nombre de demandes d’asile jamais observé

Parmi les pays industrialisés, l’année 2015 a également été une année record en termes de nouvelles demandes d’asile, avec deux millions de demandes d’asile déposées (contribuant aux 3,2 millions de cas encore en suspens à la fin de l’année). L’Allemagne a reçu davantage de demandes d’asile que tout autre pays (441 900), ce qui reflète en grande partie sa volonté de recevoir des personnes qui fuyaient vers l’Europe via la Méditerranée. Les États-Unis comptaient le deuxième plus grand nombre de demandes d’asile (172 700). Beaucoup des requérants avaient fui la violence liée aux gangs en Amérique centrale. Des nombres importants de demandes d’asile ont également été observés en Suède (156 000) et en Russie (152 500). 

Environ la moitié des réfugiés du monde sont des enfants

Les enfants constituaient 51 pour cent de la population des réfugiés dans le monde en 2015 selon les statistiques que le HCR a pu recueillir (les données démographiques n’ont pas toutes été mises à disposition des auteurs du rapport). De manière inquiétante, beaucoup ont été séparés de leurs parents ou voyagent seuls. En tout, on a compté 98 400 demandes d’asile émanant d’enfants qui étaient non accompagnés ou séparés de leur famille. C’est le total le plus élevé jamais observé par le HCR - et il pose une réflexion tragique sur la façon dont le déplacement forcé dans le monde affecte de façon disproportionnée la vie des jeunes.

Impossible de rentrer dans son pays d’origine

Alors que les totaux mondiaux de déplacements de populations étaient plus élevés que jamais, le nombre de personnes pouvant retourner dans leur pays ou trouver une autre solution (intégration locale dans le pays de premier refuge ou réinstallation dans un pays tiers) était faible. Quelque 201 400 réfugiés ont pu retourner dans leur pays d’origine en 2015 (principalement l’Afghanistan, le Soudan et la Somalie). Ce nombre est supérieur au total enregistré en 2014 (126 800), mais encore nettement en baisse par rapport au pic du début des années 1990. Quelque  107 100 réfugiés ont été admis à la réinstallation dans 30 pays en 2015 - soit seulement 0,66 pour cent des réfugiés pris en charge par le HCR (en comparaison, 26 pays avaient admis 105 200 réfugiés pour la réinstallation en 2014, ce qui représente 0,73 pour cent de la population réfugiée prise en charge par le HCR). Au moins 32 000 réfugiés ont été naturalisés au cours de l’année, la majorité au Canada et un plus petit nombre en France, en Belgique, en Autriche et ailleurs.

Les déplacements de populations en 2015, par région (par ordre décroissant) :

1. Moyen-Orient et Afrique du Nord

La guerre en Syrie demeure la principale cause à travers le monde des déplacements de populations et de la souffrance associée. A la fin 2015, le conflit avait généré au moins 4,9 millions de personnes qui ont fui en tant que réfugiés et 6,6 millions de personnes déplacées internes – soit environ la moitié de la population d’avant-guerre en Syrie. Le conflit en Iraq avait déraciné, à la fin de l’année, 4,4 millions de personnes déplacées internes et près de 250 000 réfugiés. La guerre civile au Yémen, qui a commencé en 2015, avait, à la fin décembre, déraciné 2,5 millions de personnes – soit davantage de nouveaux déplacements que tout autre conflit à travers le monde. Avec 5,2 millions de réfugiés palestiniens relevant de la compétence de l’UNRWA, près d’un demi-million de Libyens contraints de fuir ailleurs dans leur pays et un certain nombre d’autres situations plus limitées, la région du Moyen-Orient et de l’Afrique du Nord a compté davantage de déplacements de populations que toute autre (19,9 millions).

2. Afrique subsaharienne

L’Afrique subsaharienne est le théâtre du plus grand nombre total de déplacements en 2015 après le Moyen-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord. La poursuite de violents conflits au Soudan du Sud en 2015 ainsi qu’en République centrafricaine et en Somalie, ainsi que des déplacements massifs nouveaux ou prolongés dans ou hors de pays comme le Nigéria, le Burundi, le Soudan, la République démocratique du Congo, le Mozambique et ailleurs ont généré ensemble 18,4 millions de réfugiés et de déplacés internes à la fin de l’année 2015. Parallèlement, l’Afrique sub-saharienne a accueilli quelque 4,4 millions de réfugiés au total – soit davantage que toute autre région. Cinq des 10 principaux pays hôtes au monde étaient des pays africains, avec l’Ethiopie en tête, suivie par le Kenya, l’Ouganda, la République démocratique du Congo et le Tchad.

3. Asie et Pacifique

La région Asie et Pacifique comptait près d’un réfugié et personnes déplacées sur six à travers le monde en 2015, ce qui en fait la troisième plus grande région pour les déplacements de populations. Un réfugié relevant de la compétence du HCR sur six était originaire de l’Afghanistan (2,7 millions de personnes) où près de 1,2 million de personnes sont des déplacés internes. Le Myanmar est le deuxième pays générateur de réfugiés et de personnes déplacées internes dans cette région (451 800 et 451 000 respectivement). Le Pakistan (1,5 million) et la République islamique d’Iran (979 000) demeurent parmi les principaux pays d’accueil de réfugiés au monde.

4. Amériques

Le nombre croissant de personnes fuyant les gangs et autres actes de violence en Amérique centrale a contribué à une hausse de 17 cent des déplacements de populations à travers la région. Le nombre de réfugiés et demandeurs d’asile originaires du Salvador, du Guatemala et du Honduras atteint 109 800. La plupart rejoignent le Mexique et les États-Unis et le nombre a été multiplié par cinq en trois ans. En proie à une situation prolongée, la Colombie demeurait le plus important pays au monde pour les déplacements internes (6,9 millions).

5. Europe

La situation en Ukraine, la proximité de l’Europe avec la Syrie et l’Iraq, ainsi que l’arrivée de plus d’un million de réfugiés et de migrants via la Méditerranée en provenance, pour la plupart, des dix principaux pays générateurs de réfugiés à travers le monde, ont dominé l’actualité des déplacements de populations pour la région en 2015. Les pays européens ont généré quelque 593 000 réfugiés – originaires de l’Ukraine pour la plupart ; et en ont accueilli 4,4 millions - dont 2,5 millions en Turquie. Les chiffres fournis par le gouvernement ukrainien font état de 1,6 million d’Ukrainiens déplacés internes. Le rapport du HCR sur les Tendances mondiales recense 441 900 demandes d’asile en Allemagne, où la population réfugiée a augmenté de 46 pour cent par rapport à son niveau de 2014 qui était de 316 000.

Information complémentaire :

Le Rapport statistique du HCR sur les Tendances mondiales est publié lors de la Journée mondiale du réfugié, le 20 juin parallèlement à notre campagne appelant à signer notre pétition #Aveclesréfugiés. Un dossier multimédia est également mis à disposition en même temps que ce rapport, y compris des infographies, des photos, des vidéos et autres contenus. Ce dossier multimédia ainsi que les contacts média du HCR à travers le monde sont disponiblesici.  

* La population du Royaume-Uni en 2015 : 64,7 millions ; France : 64.4 millions ; Italie : 59.8 millions. Source: UN Population Division, World Population Prospects, the 2015 Revisionhttps://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Download/Standard/Population/

Thailand: Refugee children connected to learning at ‘Heavenly Home’

20 June 2016 - 2:59am
Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Country: Myanmar, Thailand

The Heavenly Home orphanage was founded a decade ago to cater for refugee and migrant orphans after founder Lily was asked to take in a six-month old abandoned baby. Today the baby is a happy, healthy 11-year-old boy called Sam, one of 73 children who live fulltime at the home in the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

The home has changed from a small space in the town’s market place to a two-storey wooden building on the outskirts of the city with 65 of its residents in school – 45 go to a local Thai school and 20 to a learning centre in Myanmar. The rest are too young to attend school and are cared for during the day by Lily, her husband Thant Zin, and 11 of her dedicated staff. Lily also offers day-care services for the children of migrant workers living in the area.

Heavenly Home was one of the first sites selected for UNESCO Bangkok’s Mobile Literacy for Out-of-School Children project.

Learning in ethnic languages

The initiative, a collaboration between UNESCO, Microsoft, True and the Thai Ministry of Education, provides selected learning centres with tablets that contain a UNESCO designed app featuring over 1,000 learning resources in Thai, Myanmar as well as ethnic languages, as well as satellite TV with educational programmes and free internet.

The project, funded by Microsoft and implemented by UNESCO, Microsoft Thailand, True Corporation, the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education and the Office of the Basic Education Commission, Thai Ministry of Education aims to enhance the basic literacy and numeracy skills of the thousands of migrant, ethnic minority and stateless children in the Thai-Myanmar border areas.

Heavenly Home offers classes in subjects such as the Thai, Myanmar and English languages. Lily and teachers at the centre said that the tablets have proved invaluable in helping them and their learners access materials that would otherwise be beyond their reach.

The combination of care and modern learning methods have garnered successes as Ann who arrived at the orphanage with her one-year-old brother after her mother died and her father was incapable of caring for her. She is now a star pupil and excited to start grade 7 at the nearby Mae Sot School.

Migrant orphans find a home and hope at Thai-Myanmar border (Video)

World: UNHCR Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015

20 June 2016 - 2:28am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen
With 1 human in every 113 affected, forced displacement hits record high

Conflict and persecution caused global forced displacement to escalate sharply in 2015, reaching the highest level ever recorded and representing immense human suffering, according to a report released today by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, which tracks forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partners including the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, and the organization’s own reporting, said 65.3 million people were displaced as of the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

The total of 65.3 million comprises 3.2 million people in industrialized countries who as of end 2015 were awaiting decisions on asylum (the largest total UNHCR has recorded), 21.3 million refugees worldwide (1.8 million more than in 2014 and the highest refugee total since the early 1990s), and 40.8 million people who had been forced to flee their homes but were within the confines of their own countries (an increase of 2.6 million from 2014 and the highest number on record).

Measured against Earth’s 7.349 billion population, these numbers mean that 1 in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee – a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent. In all, there are more forcibly displaced people today than the populations of the United Kingdom, France or Italy.*

Forced displacement has been on the rise since at least the mid-1990s in most regions, but over the past five years the rate of climb has increased. The reasons are threefold: Situations that cause large refugee outflows are lasting longer (for example, conflicts in Somalia or Afghanistan are now into their third and fourth decades, respectively), dramatic new or reignited situations are occurring frequently (today’s largest being Syria, but also in the space of the past five years South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine, Central African Republic, etc.), and the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War. As recently as 10 years ago, at the end of 2005, UNHCR recorded an average of six people displaced every minute. Today that number is 24 per minute – almost double the typical frequency at which adults breathe.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Politics is gravitating against asylum in some countries. The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail.”

3 countries produce half the world’s refugees…

Among countries covered by the Global Trends report several stand out: Syria at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million together accounted for more than half the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide. Colombia at 6.9 million, Syria at 6.6 million, and Iraq at 4.4 million meanwhile had the largest numbers of internally displaced people. Yemen was the biggest producer of new internal displacement in 2015 – 2.5 million people, or 9 per cent of its population.

… And they’re mostly in the Global South

Europe’s struggles to manage the more than one million refugees and migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean dominated the attentions of many in 2015, nonetheless the report shows that the vast majority of the world’s refugees were elsewhere. In all, 86 per cent of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate in 2015 were in low and middle income countries close to situations of conflict. This figure rises to over 90 per cent of the world’s refugee total if the Palestinian refugees under the responsibility of UNHCR’s sister-organization UNRWA are included. Worldwide, Turkey was the biggest host country with 2.5 million refugees. Lebanon, meanwhile hosted more refugees compared to its population than any other country (183 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants). Relative to the size of its economy the Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted most (471 refugees for every dollar of per capita GDP, measured at price purchasing parity).

Asylum claims rise 

Among industrialized countries, 2015 was also a record year for new asylum claims, with two million requests (contributing to the 3.2 million cases still pending as of the end of the year). Germany received more asylum requests than any other country (441,900), largely reflecting its readiness to receive people who were fleeing to Europe via the Mediterranean. The United States had the second highest number of asylum claims (172,700), many of these individuals fleeing gang-related violence in Central America. Substantial asylum applications were also seen in Sweden (156,000) and Russia (152,500).

About half the world’s refugees are children

Children constituted 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015 according to the data UNHCR was able to gather (complete demographic data was not available to the report authors). Worryingly, many were separated from their parents or travelling alone. In all there were 98,400 asylum requests from children who were unaccompanied or separated from their families. This is the highest total UNHCR has seen – and a tragic reflection of how global forced displacement is disproportionately affecting young lives.

Unable to go home 

While global displacement totals were higher than ever, the number of people able to return to their home or find another solution (local integration in a country of first refuge or resettlement elsewhere) was low. 201,400 refugees were able to return to their countries of origin in 2015 (mainly Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia). This was higher than the total in 2014 (126,800), but still substantially down compared with the peaks of the early 1990s. Some 107,100 refugees were admitted for resettlement in 30 countries in 2015 – representing just 0.66 per cent of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate (by comparison, 26 countries admitted 105,200 refugees for resettlement in 2014, representing 0.73 per cent of the refugee population under UNHCR care). At least 32,000 refugees became naturalized over the course of the year, the majority in Canada and with smaller numbers in France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere.

Displacement in 2015, by region (from highest to lowest)

1. Middle East and North Africa 

Syria’s war remained the world’s leading cause of displacement and associated suffering. By the end of 2015 it had driven at least 4.9 million people into exile as refugees and displaced 6.6 million internally – amounting to around half Syria’s pre-war population. Iraq’s conflict had by year’s end displaced 4.4 million people internally and created more than a quarter of a million refugees. Yemen’s civil war, which began in 2015, had by the end of December displaced 2.5 million people – more new displacement than any other conflict globally. Including the 5.2 million Palestinian refugees under the mandate of UNRWA, the almost half a million Libyans forced to flee their homes and remaining in the country, plus a number of smaller situations, the Middle East and North Africa region accounted for more displacement than any other.

2. Sub-Saharan Africa 

Sub-Saharan Africa had the largest displacement totals in 2015 after the Middle East and North Africa. Continuing bitter conflict in South Sudan in 2015, as well as in Central African Republic and Somalia, plus new or continuing mass displacement in or from countries including Nigeria, Burundi, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and elsewhere together produced 18.4 million refugees and internally displaced people as of year’s end. Sub-Saharan Africa meanwhile hosted some 4.4 million refugees in all – more than any other region. Five of the world’s top-10 hosting nations were African countries, led by Ethiopia, and followed by Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad.

3. Asia and Pacific 

The Asia and Pacific region accounted for almost a sixth of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people in 2015, making it the third largest region for displacement overall. One in six of the refugees under UNHCR’s mandate were from Afghanistan (2.7 million people) where almost 1.2 million people were internally displaced. Myanmar was the region’s second largest producer of both refugees and internally displaced people (451,800 and 451,000 respectively). Pakistan (1.5 million) and Islamic Republic of Iran (979,000) remain among the world’s leading refugee hosting countries.

4. Americas 

Rising numbers of people fleeing gang and other violence in Central America contributed to a 17 per cent rise in displacement across the wider region. Refugees and asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras together reached 109,800, most coming to Mexico and the United States and representing a more than five-fold increase over three years. Colombia, a longstanding situation, remained the world’s biggest country for internal displacement (6.9 million).

5. Europe 

The situation in Ukraine, Europe’s proximity to Syria and Iraq, plus the arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants via the Mediterranean mostly from the world’s top ten refugee-producing countries, together dominated the region’s displacement picture in 2015. European countries together produced some 593,000 refugees – most from Ukraine; and hosted 4.4 million – 2.5 million of these in Turkey. Figures provided by the Government of Ukraine list 1.6 million Ukrainians as being displaced there. The Global Trends report lists 441,900 asylum claims in Germany, where the refugee population increased by 46 per cent from its 2014 level to 316,000.

Additional Information

UNHCR’s Global Trends Report is being released on World Refugee Day, 20 June, in conjunction with our #WithRefugees petition campaign. A full multimedia package is available in connection with the Global Trends report, including infographics, photos, video materials and other products. The package, plus details of UNHCR’s global media contacts, can be found here.

 

* 2015 population of UK: 64.7 million; population of France: 64.4 million; population of Italy 59.8 million. Source: UN Population Division, World Population Prospects, the  2015 Revision

World: Lives Still in Limbo, One Year After Southeast Asia Migrant Crisis

18 June 2016 - 11:18pm
Source: The New York Times Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

By JOE COCHRANEJUNE 18, 2016

BAYEUN, Indonesia — When Mohammed Salim washed ashore on the coast of Aceh Province in Indonesia during the Southeast Asian refugee crisis last year, he was hungry, thirsty, emaciated and exhausted.

Read the full article here

Indonesia: Migrants in Indonesia boat stand-off brought ashore: official

18 June 2016 - 5:26am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka

Lhoknga, Indonesia | Saturday 6/18/2016 - 07:06 GMT

Dozens of Sri Lankan migrants stranded on a boat off Indonesia were allowed to come ashore Saturday after a tense stand-off, but local authorities insist they will still be towed back to sea.

The 44 migrants, who include many women and children, were allowed to disembark in Aceh province and take refuge in tents, a week after their Indian-flagged vessel broke down en route to Australia.

Authorities in the western province had drawn international condemnation by refusing to allow the migrants ashore, but relented Saturday as huge waves threatened to upend the damaged boat.

However a local official said authorities would proceed as planned and tow the migrants out to international waters once their boat had been repaired and the weather improved.

"The policy is still the same as yesterday," Al Hudri, the head of social services in Aceh province, told AFP.

"After the boat is repaired, they will be towed back to sea and sent home."

He said the migrants were brought ashore as rough seas and strong winds were threatening to capsize the damaged vessel.

The boat had suffered serious damage during its journey, with engine trouble and holes that needed repairing before it would be seaworthy, he added.

In the meantime a kitchen has been set up to feed those brought ashore, as police began photographing the migrants in a bid to establish identities, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The Sri Lankans were prevented from coming ashore for a week, despite Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla ordering Aceh officials to allow them to disembark.

"We're happy to see that is finally being implemented," said Lilianne Fan, international director of Aceh NGO the Geutanyoe Foundation, whose team on the ground witnessed the disembarkation.

"At this point the most urgent thing from our point of view is that immediate access is given to the UNHCR," she added, referring to the UN refugee agency.

When asked if the UNHCR teams in Lhoknga -- the town where the boat ran aground -- had been granted access to the refugees, Hudri said: "No, not yet".

The week-long impasse boiled over Thursday when police fired a warning shot to disperse a crowd that had swarmed around the vessel.

That incident prompted Amnesty International on Friday to issue a statement accusing local authorities of employing "crude intimidation tactics" against the migrants.

"The immigration office and security forces in Aceh are flouting the authority of their own Vice President and not letting the UNHCR do its job," Josef Benedict of Amnesty International said in a statement.

Hundreds of Myanmar Rohingya came ashore in Aceh last year during a regional boat people crisis and were warmly welcomed by residents of the staunchly Islamic province, who felt sympathy for their plight as a persecuted Muslim minority.

str-np/ds

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

India: Polio situation in South-East Asia Region

18 June 2016 - 5:14am
Source: World Health Organization Country: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste

Media Statement from WHO South-East Asia Regional Office

The South-East Asia Region of the World Health Organization (WHO), comprising of 11 countries including India, continues to be polio free. No child has been afflicted by wild poliovirus since the last case was reported from West Bengal, India, in January 2011.

All countries in the Region continue to maintain a very high vigil for poliovirus detection. As part of this, environmental surveillance – collection of samples from sewage – is being conducted regularly from 30 sites across seven states in India.

On very rare occasions, vaccine-derived polio viruses (VDPVs) are isolated from sewage samples. Prompt and adequate response to VDPVs detected in the sewage samples in the past has prevented any spread of these viruses in the community. It is important to note that such viruses have been detected from environmental samples only – no children have been affected nor cases of paralysis associated. Detection of such rare VDPVs is not unusual or unexpected, and robust short- and long-term management strategies are in place to adequately manage the small risks associated with such isolates.

To further mitigate the small risk of VDPVs, globally nearly 155 countries have switched from using the trivalent oral polio vaccine to the bivalent oral polio vaccine. The switch in April 2016, under the Polio End Game Plan is a critical step to prevent VDPVs and stop all polio, whether due to wild or vaccine-derived viruses.

The Ministry of Health, supported by WHO and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), continues to conduct strong surveillance for any poliovirus from any source, and continues to strengthen overall population immunity to ensure children continue to be fully protected from lifelong polio paralysis. The South-East Asia Region was certified polio-free on 27 March 2014 and there is no threat to the Region’s polio-free status from the VDPV isolates in the sewage samples.

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Media Contacts

Ms Shamila Sharma Communication Officer WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia E-mail: sharmasha@who.int Mobile: +91 98182 87256 Tel: +91 11 23370804, Extn: 26575

Myanmar: Sweden Provides 30 Million Swedish Krona to Support UNDP’s Work in Myanmar

17 June 2016 - 6:07pm
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar, Sweden

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has received an additional 30 million Swedish krona (approximately USD 3.6 M) from the Government of Sweden to support the agency’s work in Myanmar in the areas of democratic governance, local development and environmental sustainability. This follows an initial contribution of 30 M Swedish krona received in 2014.

UNDP Country Director, Toily Kurbanov said that he was encouraged by the support provided by the Government of Sweden.

“With the initial tranche of funding from Sweden, UNDP has helped improve local governance in Myanmar, with a particular focus on strengthening women’s participation. Our partnership with Sweden has enabled UNDP to strengthen democratic institutions such as the Parliaments, and support justice actors to better engage with the people. With this new tranche of funding from Sweden, UNDP will be better able to support Myanmar’s ongoing transition.”

Ann Stodberg, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden´s Section office in Yangon, stated that “Sweden is proud to continue its support to the important work being carried out by UNDP and its partners. We are convinced that the key areas for the UNDP interventions at local as well as at the national level require long-term commitments, such as the one the Swedish Government has made before and is renewing now. We hope to see results in terms of empowerment of both women and men in terms of rights and responsibilities, improved community resilience in the face of external challenges and strengthened government institutions that can respond well to the needs of vulnerable populations”.

Swedish support has been instrumental in the establishment of Rule of Law Centres around the country, which promote improved awareness of human rights and social justice amongst community leaders and legal professionals, and enhanced community engagement on justice issues.

Earlier this year, the Director General of the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), Ms Charlotte Petri Gornitzka met with local level women Village Tract/Ward Administrators and members of the Myanmar Rural Women’s network, May Daw Kabar during a visit to the Myanmar. Enhancing women’s leadership and rights are a key area within the UNDP program.

Myanmar: Army Demands Three Ethnic Allies Disarm Before Joining Peace Process

17 June 2016 - 1:04am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NAN LWIN HNIN PWINT / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — While preparations for State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s proposed 21st Century Panglong Conference continue, critics doubt that the conference will be inclusive while the Burma Army insists on the disarmament of three ethnic armed groups.

A government sub-committee tasked with preparing for the upcoming peace conference met with members of the ethnic alliance United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) who were non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) earlier this month in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

But the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Arakan Army (AA), which are engaged in ongoing fighting with the Burma Army, did not send delegates to the meeting.

When asked by The Irrawaddy about their absence, TNLA Brig-Gen Tarr Jode Jar replied that they were not invited.

AA chief Tun Myat Naing spoke of transportation difficulties, and said they were only informally invited.

Hla Maung Shwe, a member of the conference preparatory sub-committee and former advisor to the Myanmar Peace Center, said although the government invited the three groups to the conference and is set to meet with them, he would seek to negotiate in line with the military’s demands for disarmament.

“We are not asking them to surrender, but to give up arms. The conference is not shut to them if they want to find ways and means,” said Hla Maung Shwe, adding that he had no comment on the military’s disarmament policy, but that he would work toward the best possible outcome.

Lt-Gen Mya Tun Oo at a press conference in Naypyidaw on May 13 said the military would not negotiate peace with the MNDAA, TNLA and AA—which had rejected the previous government’s invitation to join peace talks.

“They have no choice but to disarm,” said the lieutenant general.

The MNDAA, TNLA and AA said they would not disarm.

“The military’s demand for disarmament is a real barrier to peace. That is totally impossible,” said AA chief Tun Myat Naing.

He said the three allies would like to discuss equality, power and resource sharing, and constitutional and political changes, but not disarmament.

The groups expect to cooperate with Suu Kyi’s government, but still dare not trust in the peace process because they do not see the National League for Democracy (NLD) government exerting significant influence over the military, he added.

“I dare not say if the peace will be successful. And I don’t have much trust,” said the AA chief.

Although the three allies want to hold peace talks with the government, they are also simultaneously strengthening their forces in case military tensions arise between them and the Burma Army, Tun Myat Naing told The Irrawaddy.

TNLA Brig-Gen Tarr Jode Jar said, “I don’t think disarmament will help. The Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) gave up their arms in 2005. Then they were bullied.”

The Palaung State Liberation Organization (PSLO) signed a cease-fire with the government in 1991. Later, when relations soured, the Palaung (Ta’ang) people took up arms again and formed the TNLA.

The TNLA has ongoing clashes with the Burma Army and will discuss a ceasefire and peace, but will not accept disarmament, said TNLA officials.

The Irrawaddy could not reach the MNDAA, but the stances of the three allies are the same, said AA officials.

The government’s peace conference sub-committee is set to meet the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) next week. After that meeting, the preparatory committee is scheduled to meet the three groups.

Maung Maung Soe, a political analyst based in Rangoon said:” The military sticks to the disarmament policy, but this is still not a negative sign because President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi have not yet shared their views.”

Ethnic armed groups in northern Burma are connected politically, geographically and militarily, and other groups might not leave those three groups behind, said Maung Maung Soe.

“If those groups are left out, other allies might not attend the conference. We’ll have to wait and see how Aung San Suu Kyi will negotiate with the army and overcome this,” he added.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

Myanmar: Developing a new roadmap for making Myanmar safe and resilient

17 June 2016 - 12:10am
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

[Nay Pyi Taw – 15th June, 2016] In collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and the Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, the United Nations Development Programmehas initiated a process to update the strategy to manage disaster risk in Myanmar.

In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the Government of Myanmar undertook measures to minimize disaster risk and improve resilience of communities through the formulation and implementation of the Myanmar Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (MAPDRR) 2009-2015.

U Soe Aung, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said, “Because of global warming and climate change, the nations, including Myanmar, are facing severe natural disasters in these days. Meanwhile, man-made disasters are challenging us. Therefore, we need to accelerate our efforts to minimizedisaster risk and build resilience.”

Myanmar now needs a more inclusive national framework that strengthens the existing disaster risk reduction mechanism by integrating best practices from the implementation of MAPDRR during 2009 to 2015, and its regional and global commitments.

“Combining best practices and lesson learned from the MAPDRR with our commitments to Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response is necessary to make Myanmar safe and resilient,” said DrKoKoNaing, Director General of Relief and Resettlement Department.

In today’s workshop, stakeholders shared and discussed accomplishments and lessons learned from the implementation of the MAPDRR for the last seven years.

Some of the most significant achievements of the MAPDRR were the development of the Disaster Management Law and Disaster Management Rules, and mainstreaming disaster risk management into development agenda of every ministry and department. Stakeholders also noted that the absence of national-level monitoring and evaluation of the MAPDRR activities was an important lesson learned and must be addressed in the new MAPDRR.

“We see that disaster risk reduction and sustainable development are one and the same. Sustainable development cannot happen without disaster risk reduction. The hard-won development gains could be washed away by a disaster. The only successful route to sustainable development is to integrate disaster risk reduction into development plans and programmes,” said DawLatLat Aye, Team Leader of the Environmental Governance and Disaster Resilience Programme, UNDP Myanmar.

“We are not at the beginning anymore and have achieved a number of milestones in building disaster resilience in Myanmar. It is time to shift emphasis from advocacy to implementation. The Sendai Framework and the other global development frameworks could be perceived as the practical vision for implementing policies at the country level,” she added.

“The Government of Myanmar has established a Disaster Management Fund and a new institutional structure at national level that will collaborate with various stakeholders such as local governments, parliaments, civil society organizations, academic institutes, private sector and the communitiesto make Myanmar safe and resilient,” said U Soe Aung, Permanent Secretary.

Today’s workshop developed a process for formulation of a new MAPDRR building on the accomplishments and synergies with other relevant action plans.

Myanmar: A Development Agenda - New budget to focus on development, U Htin Kyaw

16 June 2016 - 11:50pm
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Myanmar’s Financial Commission held its first meeting in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday, with President U Htin Kyaw addressing the crowd and stressing the need for the new government to bring forward a constitution that focuses on national reconciliation, internal peace and democratic federalism, vowing to effectively spend the budgets on higher living standards and economic growth.

The meeting discussed the 2016-2017 budget approved by the previous government and an amendment of the ’16-’17 budget to be submitted to the parliament for approval. The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw passed the Union Budget Law at its 33rd regular session last year, with the president saying that the previous government drew up its budget depending on its cabinet structure.

“Our new government, with its 22 ministries, needs to retune the budget for 2016-17 fiscal year in line with changing trends,” President U Htin Kyaw said. The Financial Commission has the responsibility to introduce a budget bill and send it to parliament for approval.

President U Htin Kyaw promised increased spending on education, health and social welfare to ensure more human resources, adding that development policies would be focused on the implementation of rural development, electrification, poverty alleviation and infrastructural development.

A 5% commercial tax placed on mobile top cards has gathered K7.5 billion (US$6.3m) revnue with the President saying that the tax will be spent on sectors that directly contribute to public interests.

“The country’s revenues belong to the people. The responsibility of the government is just to manage it. How the budgets are allotted shows what is on the government’s top agenda,” said President U Htin Kyaw, he also pointed out the need for greater transparency in budget allocation and use calling for systematic supervision of the spending.

As Vice Chairman of the Financial Commission, Vice President U Myint Swe said that the new budget included expenditures for the Ministry of State Counsellor’s Office and the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs with expenditures for the ministries being cut by 2%.

U Myint Swe noted that most of the budget remains unchanged. Highlighting that the lustrous border fence budget remains untouched, with the Ministry of Home Affairs responsible for the construction project at the Myanmar-Bangladesh and Myanmar-India borders.

Vice President U Henry Van Thio, also Vice Chairman of the Financial Commission, said that over K1.6bn (US$1.4m) is allocated to states and regions in the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year. President U Htin Kyaw suggested the publication of a Citizen’s Budget journal after the amendment bill of the Union Budget Law 2016 won parliamentary approval. – Myanmar News Agency

Myanmar: Displaced Shan Return to Villages in Northern Shan State

15 June 2016 - 10:18pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

The last of over 1,000 ethnic Shan displaced by conflict in northern Shan State’s Hsipaw Township the previous month have now returned to their villages.

On Tuesday, a last group of 300 voluntarily left Hsipaw town, where they had obtained shelter with the aid of community leaders, including a state parliamentarian of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and members of the Shan Literature and Culture Committee.

The displaced have returned to the villages of Thein Hain, Nar Thaw and Pan Nar bordering Lashio Township, where fighting between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-North prompted them to flee starting May 19. The area is now considered conflict free.

Nang San San Aye, an SNLD state parliamentarian for Hsipaw Township, told The Irrawaddy that they had given the returning villagers “18,000 kyats (US$15) per person, along with rice, cooking oil, salt and other commodities for them to eat when they got back to their villages.”

Nang San San Aye said she had overseen the first group sent back on June 1, with subsequent groups sent back on June 6, 13 and 14.

She said that now is the time is for the local Shan to plant paddy in their villages, with the onset of the rainy season across Burma.

According to local community leaders, the SSA-N is no longer in the area where the Shan villagers have returned; only the Burma Army has retained bases in the vicinity, and the fighting has stopped.

Local authorities in Hsipaw Township have also facilitated the handout of citizenship documentation to those displaced, including Citizenship Scrutiny Cards (“pink cards”), before their return. Many had not possessed such documents previously, despite being eligible for citizenship.

Nyo Nyo Myat, another female community leader in Hsipaw assisting the return, said the citizenship documents along with “recommendation letters” from the government would provide “safety” for those returning by “proving they were from those villages.”

“Only the Burma Army remains in their villages now. If [the returning villagers] show their citizenship cards, they will be allowed to stay there,” said Nyo Nyo Myat.

Nang San San Aye of the SNLD explained that, “Many of our ethnic Shan cannot speak Burmese, and Burma Army soldiers beat them because of it. Those [citizenship] cards will prove they belong to the villages.”

Myanmar: Pegu farmlands destroyed by floods

15 June 2016 - 11:33am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By NAW NOREEN / DVB 15 June 2016

Floods triggered by continuous heavy rainfall have destroyed thousands of acres of farmland in Pegu Division this week.

The areas of Pegu affected by floodwaters include Zigon, Nattalin and Gyobingauk in the region’s west that had been experiencing heavy rains in the past week.

Zigon resident Khin Nyein Nyen Ei told DVB that more than 6,000 acres of farmland were destroyed in the town as they remained inundated since the overflow of a nearby river on Sunday.

“Farmlands located in the east and west of Zigon were destroyed. The floodwater is yet to subside, and the river is still swelling,” she said, adding that 18 homes located on a riverbank were destroyed.

She said six villages in Zigon Township were affected by the recent floods.

Thant Zin Htet, a resident in the town of Nattalin, said nearly 30 villages in his township were experiencing floods.

“Pretty much every area in the west of Pegu Division has experienced floods this year and lost some or all of their fields,” he said. “Local farmers will struggle.”

He said the water level in Nattalin is chest high, posing difficulties for young students going to school.

The Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry’s assistance-secretariat Myo Tint Tun said the government was yet to receive details of destruction to the agriculture sector, but is preparing to provide the necessary assistance to farmers.

“At the moment, we haven’t yet received any reports, but we are stockpiling paddy seeds and other items to distribute to the farmers whenever necessary,” said Myo Tint Tun.

The Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry Director Phyu Le Le Tun said that a 20 billion kyat [US$17 million] budget has been approved for disaster management in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Thousands of people in Sagaing, Pegu, Irrawaddy and Arakan divisions have been affected by floods as the annual monsoon season rains sweep across the country.