The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) supports IO and NGO humanitarian assistance and protection programs for vulnerable populations in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Bangladesh. In addition, the Bureau also monitors issues pertaining to the protection and assistance needs of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, vulnerable migrants, and other victims of conflict originating from Southeast Asia and displaced throughout East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia regions.
Burmese refugees,asylum seekers, and IDPs
Burmese refugees and asylum seekers comprise the single largest refugee group in East Asia, the majority of whom have been displaced for almost three decades. Currently, there are some 615,000 Burmese refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern in Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, and China. In Burma, there are over 1 million stateless Rohingya and an estimated 800,000 IDPs. Although the reformist Burmese government has taken encouraging steps -- including allowing UN access to conflict-affected areas in Kachin State, Burma since December 2011 to provide assistance to IDPs -- access by international humanitarian organizations remains tenuous and violence continues in Burma, especially in Rakhine State where roughly 140,000 people remain in IDP camps..
In Thailand, UNHCR and NGOs working on the Thailand-Burma border continue to prepare for the potential voluntary return of Burmese refugees residing in the nine refugee camps on the Thailand side of the border when conditions in Burma are conducive for a sustainable voluntary repatriation. NGOs are providing vocational training and skills development programs in order to prepare refugees for a productive future outside of the camps. In Bangkok, individuals from over 35 countries of origin make up the urban refugee and asylum seeker population residing there. The urban population is estimated to be over 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers, a 200% increase over the past two years. For the first time in FY 2014, PRM issued a funding opportunity announcement to address urban refugee needs in Bangkok, and PRM provided funding support directly to three NGOs to help meet the legal, health, and educational needs of this urban population.
In Malaysia, PRM supports UNHCR and NGO programs to assist urban refugees and asylum seekers to support education, health care, and gender-based violence prevention and response. UNHCR’s mobile registration campaign increased the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers to 150,000 (an estimated 98,000 are refugees and about 51,000 are asylum seekers). A health insurance scheme began enrollment in June 2014, allowing refugees and asylum seekers to affordably purchase hospitalization health insurance.
In Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh presented to the international community its new strategy and approach to addressing the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar district. Key elements of the National Rohingya Strategy include plans to survey the estimated up to 500,000 undocumented Rohingya, and an eventual transition from international NGOs to local NGOs in providing humanitarian assistance. International NGOs continue to operate, working together with local NGOs, in providing assistance to the Rohingya and local Bangladeshi communities. IOM is designated by the Government as the lead coordinator of humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar and in FY 2014, PRM provided a $2 million contribution to IOM in support of its proposal to meet the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya and host communities.
With PRM support, IOM improved the capacity of governments to protect and assist vulnerable migrants by drafting a national trafficking action plan with the Burmese Government, established bilateral standard operating procedures for repatriation and reintegration of victims of trafficking between Burma and neighboring countries, trained Thai government officials on trafficking victim identification and counseling, established a community-based reintegration model in Vietnam, and provided expert advice to Laos and China on combating trafficking in persons.
The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration provided $69.7 million of humanitarian assistance to UNHCR, ICRC, IOM and NGOs in East and Southeast Asia, of which over $36 million was targeted to support the vulnerable Burmese in Burma and in the region, including programs along the Thailand-Burma border. These programs continue to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in the areas of health and medical care, nutritional services, water, sanitation and hygiene, food, shelter, gender-based violence prevention and response, mine risk education and training, and landmines survivors assistance.