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, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. In addition, the Bureau also monitors issues pertaining to the situations of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), vulnerable migrants, and stateless persons throughout Southeast Asia on an ongoing basis.
Burmese refugees and asylum seekers
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 as well as 1.2 million stateless Rohingya in Burma and an estimated 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burma. Although the reformist Burmese government has taken encouraging steps - including allowing some 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 conflict and violence continues in Burma, especially in Rakhine State.
In 2013, at the urging of the United States and others, the Government of Burma (GOB) permitted ICRC to resume important prison activities and granted access to conflict-affected populations in Kachin and Rakhine States. The Burmese Government also disbanded the NaSaKa border guard force notorious for committing human rights abuses, particularly against the stateless Rohingya.
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.
In Malaysia, PRM supports UNHCR and NGO programs to assist urban refugees. These programs complemented the Malaysian government’s steps to grant refugees and asylum seekers protection from arbitrary detention and exploitation. UNHCR also launched a health insurance program for urban refugees in Kuala Lumpur that is expected to benefit 60,000 families.
The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration provided $71.6 million of humanitarian assistance to UNHCR, ICRC, IOM, and NGOs in East and Southeast Asia. $39.2 million of this total was targeted to support the vulnerable Burmese in Burma and in the region, including programs along the Thailand-Burma border. NGOs received $23 million.
A regional Refugee Coordinator, Deputy Refugee Coordinator and Assistant Refugee Coordinator are based in Bangkok, Thailand. They monitor protection, assistance and refugee resettlement for populations of concern in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Bangladesh.