|Dec 18, 2008|
30 Myanmar refugees accepted
|TOKYO – JAPAN has decided to accept about 30 Myanmar refugees who are living in camps in Thailand, officials said on Thursday, marking a new stage in Tokyo’s acceptance of refugees.
While small by global standards, the number is significant for Japan, which only accepts dozens of refugees each year and imposes tight restrictions on immigration.
Around 120,000 Myanmar refugees live in nine camps along the border with Thailand, most of who have fled crackdowns by Myanmar’s junta on ethnic armies.
A United Nations-led resettlement plan launched in 2005 has offered more than 38,000 Myanmar refugees an opportunity to start new lives overseas, mostly in the United States.
Japan said it was ready to take part in the plan, as Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso met in Tokyo with Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
‘As Thailand bans the Myanmar refugees from going outside their camps, it is hoped that the international community can accept them and allow them to lead normal lives,’ Cabinet Office official Junko Yamaji said.
It will mark the first time that Japan accepts refugees already living in another country, she said.
‘The difference between the conventional acceptance of refugees and the resettlement is that the refugees don’t have to come to Japan to apply for refugee status,’ she added.
Japan plans to start the project in the 2010 fiscal year but has yet to decide where the refugees will live or how to support them.
Japan has been a major donor to the UN refugee agency but has also come under fire for not extending more of a welcome mat. — AFP