Burmese refugees resettled in Mayo


A second group of refugees from Burma have begun a new life in Co Mayo under a UN refugee resettlement programme.

Some 45 men, women and children have now joined 52 other refugees who arrived in mid-September. The latest group will be accommodated for eight weeks in an orientation centre in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo before being permanently resettled in Castlebar.

The refugees have been living in the Ban Don Yang camp on the Burma/Thai border for the past ten years. They were recommended for inclusion in the Government's resettlement programme by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Ireland is only one of six European countries that participates in the initiative. Burma's military regime came under the international spotlight in September after it attempted to clamp down on massive pro-democracy marches led by Buddhist monks.

The Irish Government has consistently criticised the treatment of pro-democracy activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest in Rangoon.

The Integration Unit in the Department of Justice said resettlement is considered only as a last resort when all other options for these refugees have been considered.

"Most refugees hope to return to their country of origin to rebuild their lives and when that option is not available their second preferred option is to rebuild their lives in familiar surroundings in another country in the region," a spokesman said.

Department of Justice officials travelled to the Burma/Thai border in June to meet the refugees and organise their travel plans. Last year 180 Iranian Kurds arrived from a refugee camp in Jordan and were resettled successfully in Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon and Mullingar.

A total of 29,560 refugees were resettled in 15 countries worldwide under UNHCR-sponsored programmes.