VICTORY! Rohingya Refugees Finally Offered Resettlement in the U.S.

By lauren Markham, 07 Sept 2010,

In April, I wrote about the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Burma. members signed a petition to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement demanding a resettlement option for this minority group. And it worked. The international community has finally committed to finding a durable solution for the Rohingya, starting with opportunities for a lucky few to resettle to the U.S.

The Rohingya have been (along with dozens of other ethnic groups) systematically persecuted and driven out from their native Burma. The largely Muslim minority has been referred to as "some of the most unloved people on earth," and they continue to inhabit the world’s most destitute and depressed camps in Thailand and Bangladesh. They persevere under life-threatening conditions in cities, too, where they look for work and a chance for a better future, and risk their lives trying to get there; in 2009, Thai officials were caught carting boatloads of Rohingya met out to sea to their deaths in order to keep them off of Thai soil.

No matter where they go, it seems, no one wants them, for despite the thousands of other Burmese minorities that have come to the U.S. in a massive wave since 2005, only now are the Rohingya offered a chance at a new life here.

The International Rescue Committee reports that the first of 800 Rohingyan refugees to resettle to the U.S. in the coming year have made it safely to their new homes in Atlanta. According to the IRC, the U.S. and UNHCR have finally made the Rohingya a priority. Let’s hope that, beginning with resettlement for some to the United States, the Rohingya’s luck is beginning to change.

Photo Credit: Chris Robinson

Lauren Markham lives in her native Bay Area where she is a writer, educator and immigrant rights advocate, working for Refugee Transitions and the Oakland Unified School district.

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