Myanmar Contributes to Increasing Global Displacement 

By Saw Yan Naing 20 June 2017

Myanmar’s internal conflicts left 490,000 refugees and 375,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of 2016, according to the UN’s refugee agency in Asia spokesperson Vivian Tan, adding to increasing global displacement worldwide.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its annual Global Trends report that 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide by the end of 2016.

“War, violence and persecution worldwide are causing more people than ever to be forcibly displaced,” the report stated.

The figure of 65.6 million comprises refugees, IDPs, and asylum seekers. Major countries that produce refugees and IDPs are Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and Colombia due to wars and violence.

UNHCR Asia spokesperson Vivian Tan told The Irrawaddy: “Myanmar is the eighth-largest refugee-producing country in the world, with more than 490,000 refugees hosted mainly in countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and India.”

There are also more than 375,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states as well as in southeast Myanmar, according to the spokesperson.

Despite the country’s ongoing peace talks, there are concerns that fighting shows no end in northern and eastern Burma.

“As we watch the progress of the peace talks closely, we remain concerned about the continuing conflict in Kachin and northern Shan States which is entering its seventh year since the ceasefire agreement broke down in June 2011,” said Vivian Tan, referring to the breakdown of a 17-year-old ceasefire agreement between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Tatmadaw.

She said decades of fighting in Myanmar’s border areas have resulted in one of the longest-running refugee and internally displaced situations in the region.

Many civilians have been displaced multiple times in recent years, and still have limited access to humanitarian aid, she added.

“We hope that further progress on the peace talks can lay the groundwork for the peace and reconciliation needed for IDPs and refugees to return home voluntarily, in safety and dignity, in the near future,” said Vivian Tan.

Meanwhile, there are some 120,000 people who lost their homes in the 2012 inter-communal violence in central Rakhine State and continue to live in dire conditions in IDP camps.

“We remain concerned about the impact of the violence that started in northern Rakhine State in October last year, which has forced an estimated 74,000 people to flee to Bangladesh,” added Vivian Tan.

The UNHCR said in its report that “of the more than 65 million displaced, 17.2 million come under the responsibility of the UNHCR.”

Syria is still the world’s largest producer of refugees with an estimated 5.5 million living in Turkey and elsewhere. But, South Sudan was the biggest new factor in 2016 due to a breakdown of peace efforts in July.

Syria, Iraq, and Colombia were home to the biggest internal displacement situations. At the end of 2016, the number of asylum seekers worldwide was 2.8 million.

The UNHCR reported that “children, who make up half the world’s refugees, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the suffering, mainly because of their greater vulnerability.”

The UNHCR also estimates that at least 10 million people were without a nationality or at risk of statelessness at the end of 2016.