• Crisis Severity ?
    2.3
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    2.5
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    2.3
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    2.3
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    2.0
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 66,141,000 Total population [?]
  • 91,000 People exposed [?]
  • 91,000 People displaced [?]
  • 91,000 People in Need [?]

Overview

10/03/2021

For more than three decades, Thailand has been an important destination for refugees from Myanmar, and currently hosts more than 93,000 refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Nearly 80% of the refugees are of Karen ethnicity, and were displaced by armed conflict between Karen separatists and the Myanmar Armed Forces in the 1980s.?

Myanmar refugees live in nine camps, most of which were established in 1997 following a large refugee movement. Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and enforces a strict encampment policy. Most of the refugees were born in Thailand and have never stepped outside the camps. Conditions in the camps are poor. Overcrowding is a concern, particularly in Mae La camp, which hosts more than 34,300 refugees. Considered ‘illegal migrants’ and unable to work, access public services, or leave the camps, the population is extremely dependent on humanitarian assistance.?

In recent years, international funding for humanitarian response activities in the Thai refugee camps has decreased. The focus of the response has shifted towards a development strategy and one that emphasises resettlement and which facilitates voluntary returns. This has had a direct impact on the amount of assistance and services being provided to refugees from Myanmar.?

Latest Developments

10/03/2021

No significant recent humanitarian developments. This crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

Key Concerns

10/03/2021

Multi-sectoral: Lack of legal recognition has limited the ability of refugees to access public services, including healthcare, education, and work opportunities outside the camps. Many of the refugee camps are geographically isolated and are in remote and mountainous areas that are difficult to reach, especially in monsoon season. The electricity grid is weak – and non-existent in some camps – which limits communication.? 

Repatriation and Voluntary Return

10/03/2021

Repatriation and resettlement of refugees has been ongoing since 2005, and more than 100,000 refugees from the camps have been resettled to another country. COVID-19 movement restrictions and border closures have hindered repatriation programmes, leaving those in the camps with a heightened risk of gender-based violence, substance abuse, and child neglect.?  

In 2016, Thailand and Myanmar agreed on a programme to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees. This has been coordinated by UNHCR, and is currently the only mechanism for voluntary return to Myanmar. Since its inception in 2016, approximately 1,000 refugees have returned to southeast Myanmar. Refugees’ acceptance of the programme and willingness to return have been hampered by ongoing conflicts in Myanmar, and fear of violence and persecution upon return to their country of origin.?