Sunday, August 12, 2012
Giving Burmese Refugees a Chance
My walk for the rights of refugee children in Thailand is coming up fast! Several years ago, I had my intern write a story about Compassion's partnership with International Justice Mission to help refugee children in Thailand - the very cause for which I am raising funds now. Serendipity, no?
To help you understand why something as fiddly as citizenship paperwork matters in the life of a child, read Rachel's story below. And if you feel so moved, please consider donating to help these children!
By Rachel Moye, Field Communications Intern
With an internal war in Burma tearing at the country for over 50 years, refugees have been pouring out into Northern Thailand, seeking for some way to survive. In response to this need, Compassion International and International Justice Mission have partnered to help fight the injustices these refugees face and support them as they begin a new life.
Over the last four decades, the UNHCR states that there are 1.3 million refugees who have emigrated from Burma to Thailand, fleeing persecution. According to the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers, “the Regime’s army has built roads and camps in ethnic homelands forcing people to relocate or flee into the jungle. There is documented forced labor and the use of rape as a weapon.”
Currently, Thailand hosts 112,000 registered refugees in camps and various villages. Returning home is too dangerous.
“The Regime’s army lays land mines down to keep villagers from returning home and supporting resistance. They aim to dominate the population, assimilate them and exploit them,” states the Free Burma Ranger.
The refugees are mainly ethnic minorities such as Karen, Hmong, and Kareeni. These minorities are considered to be the lowest of the low in their society.
A typical Hmong home
“The minority live with fear and insecurity,” reported by the Thai Freedom House. “They lack food, medical care, education and suffer from health problems.”
For more than two years, Compassion and International Justice Mission have been partnering to help support the Burmese refugees. Compassion Thailand has 13 child development centers located along the Thai-Burma border, where Karen children are receiving support through child sponsorship. But among these children, there have been many issues of non-citizenship and child rights.
Because they aren't citizens, the parents aren't able to work. The children don't have access to health care. And being stateless children, they are at risk of exploitation and even child trafficking.
Because of these risks, Compassion joined with IJM to train Compassion staff in child protection - learning the signs of abuse and how to respond to it.
Now Compassion and IJM are working together to help the children and their parents gain citizenship. Many of the refugees have not received Thai citizenship simply because they don’t know how, they don't speak the language, and they don't know their rights. Compassion will work in partnership with IJM to research each child's nationality, obtain the proper documentation and file for citizenship for these families.
Through this vital intervention, these families will have the support they need to start new lives of safety and hope in Thailand.
Give to help these children and their parents get a new start in life!