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Cablegate: Rohingya Refugee Update

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS RANGOON 001211

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL BM BG IN UNHCR
SUBJECT: ROHINGYA REFUGEE UPDATE

1. (SBU) Summary: The Government of Burma has unofficially
told UNHCR that it would accept 5,000 of the remaining
22,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. That would leave a
residual 17,000 people in Bangladesh to be locally settled
or otherwise accommodated. UNHCR Rohingya repatriation
assistance will cease as of June 30, 2003. 40,000 potential
asylum seekers from Burma's Chin state are presently in
India's Mizoram state. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Hitoshi Mise, the UNHCR's deputy director for the
EAP region, briefed the diplomatic corps in Rangoon June 18
on his discussions with the GOB about Rohingya refugees.
Mise said he found the Deputy Minister of Immigration
"unusually flexible" and secured GOB agreement on three
logistical issues regarding Rohingya refugee repatriation.
The Deputy Minister, speaking off the record, told UNHCR
that the GOB would consider accepting up to 5,000 of the
22,000 refugees still in Bangladesh.

3. (SBU) Mise noted that this would leave some 17,000
Rohingyas in Bangladesh. He said UNHCR might have to re-
verify their refugee status, as many of the individuals left
Burma in 1991 or 1992. Local settlement in Bangladesh might
be a likely prospect for the residual 17,000, Mise mused
aloud, while noting he planned to travel to Dhaka shortly to
discuss these issues with the Government of Bangladesh.

4. (SBU) The governments of Burma and Bangladesh have agreed
that UNHCR repatriation assistance to Rohingya refugees
would cease on June 30, 2003, Mise reported. UNHCR reps
added that the resettlement assistance programs for the
232,000 returned Rohingya refugees would continue beyond
that date.

5. (SBU) UNHCR representatives at the briefing reported
that some 40,000 dislocated people from Chin state are
currently in Mizoram. As the UNHCR has no presence in
Mizoram (individuals seeking refugee status must apply in
New Delhi) and with the Mizo/Zomi ethnic group straddling
the India - Burma border, Mise said it is very difficult for
these folks to establish refugee status. Resident UNHCR
head Rajiv Kapur commented that the numbers of Burmese
applying for refugee status in New Delhi are small but
growing (about 700 over the last three months). He also
commented that the official residence of Indian Defense
Minister George Fernandes is currently being used to house
large numbers of displaced Burmese.

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