Refugee Council of Australia
Refugees, mostly girls, in camp

Key issues for refugees from Myanmar (Burma)

Key countries of asylum

Thailand

In Thailand, there are nearly 100,000 refugees from Myanmar in October 2021.

Thailand-Myanmar Portal

Many refugees have lived in the camps for decades. Funding for the camps has dried up in recent years, as donors shift their focus to projects inside Myanmar.

Since 2005, when resettlement began, over 100,000 of those in Thailand have been resettled in third countries.

Resettlement Data Portal

Australia resettled 13,381 people from 2005-20. This is the second-largest number behind the United States (90,304 people).

Resettlement from Myanmar to Australia

In 2015 the Myanmar government and several non-state armed groups signed a so-called ‘nationwide ceasefire agreement’. Since then, there have been some steps towards people returning.

The Thai and Myanmar governments agreed in 2016 to a program to allow people to return voluntarily. Over 1,000 people have returned already.

Cooperation between Thailand and Myanmar

Bangladesh

The most recent movement has been to Bangladesh. By October 2021, there were over 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh. Most of these had arrived after 25 August 2017.

UNHCR – Bangladesh refugee response

Bangladesh hoped that most of the refugees would return, as in previous movements. In December 2017, it set up a joint Working Group to coordinate returns. However, attempts to return people in November 2018 and August 2019 failed.

Although most refugees want to return, they are reluctant to do so until conditions in their home country change. There are also increasing clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan army. This makes it even less likely that people will return.

Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh

Bangladesh has developed a plan to relocate many of the Rohingya to an island called Bhasan Char.  It postponed the relocation, saying it would focus instead on voluntary returns. However, it has since moved nearly  20,000 refugees there beginning in December 2020.

Human Rights Watch’s report on Bhasan Char

Malaysia

As at the end of September 2021, Malaysia hosted an estimated 154,880 registered refugees and people seeking asylum from Myanmar. This were mostly Rohingyas (103,030), and Chins (22,470). Myanmar was by far the largest country of origin for the 179,510 registered refugees and people seeking asylum in Malaysia.

UNHCR – Figures at a glance in Malaysia

Refugees in Malaysia are considered illegal immigrants and cannot work legally. However, in early 2017, the Malaysian government and the UNHCR began a pilot work program for 300 people in the country. In July 2019, less than 100 had been employed in the manufacturing part of the program.

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