Karen refugees, prisoners without a future

(Thailand 2014)


120 thousand refugees from Burma have lived confined to the camps in Thailand for 30 years. They Fled from a civil war, ethnic persecution, to find themselves prisoners without a future. Although refugee camps are hardly natural places to live, thousands have been born in the camps and never left. For the vast majority of them, the only way of life they have ever known is one forced to be dependent on outside assistance. For many young refugees, refugee camps are where they were born and where they grew up, and the only reality they have ever seen exists within the fences of the camp. After school they have no chance to work, they cannot have a normal life, they can only dream to do a job one day, to motivate their existence. They are confined to the camps with limited educational and training opportunities and no official means of earning income or gaining employment. They are stateless, they no longer have a nationality, not Thai, as the Thai government does not grant them citizenship, neither Burmese because they cannot return home given the political situation and persecution against them and they are no longer recognized as citizens of Myanmar. They belong only to the refugee camp that has become for them a concentration camp.

 

The refugees are living thanks to humanitarian aid provided by various NGOs, but even these are decreasing over time more and more due to the global economic crisis. The job opportunities are few and are linked to a few places within the NGOs. Most of Karen refugees are farmers and the land confiscated at the time by military regime will not be returned to their legitimate owners, so they have to back home without a home, without a job with no land to farm. Recently the new Thai junta has restricted refugees’ movement even more. Refugees still frequently break the rules of confinement to find a job outside the camp , and as a consequence, are often detained and now even killed. On September 2014 Thai junta announced that it wants to repatriate all refugees by 2015 despite ongoing grave violations of human rights in eastern Burma causing anxiety among the camp communities as most refugees do not feel safe returning to their homeland. But the guarantees of respect for human rights are not there yet.