US Refugee Policy Should Include Persecuted

Christians in Annual Admissions  

Persecuted Karen, Karenni, and Chin Christians Not Allowed

Refugee resettlement embodies America’s humanitarian tradition. In a time of increasing tension and conflict, it is essential that America’s door remains open to victims of violence and intolerance who have no other place to go.

The legal basis of the refugee admissions program is the Refugee Act of 1980, which defines a refugee in words that closely track those of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: "a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country and is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of a well-founded fear that he/she will be persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." The Act also allows the President to extend this definition to certain persons still resident in countries he specifies.

Christians Overlooked

Unfortunately, several persecuted communities in Burma with strong historical ties to the U.S. have been overlooked by this policy. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin people are systematically persecuted by the Burmese military government. A very high percentage of these people are Christian and are oppressed because of their ethnicity and faith. These people were our allies in the 2nd World War and fought side by side with our soldiers to repel the Axis forces. They were promised by the British that they would have their own homeland after the war, but it never happened. After the war the Burmese majority--who sided with the Axis--engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing that continues to this day. The situation deteriorated greatly in 1988 when the military took over the government. The Karen, Karenni, and Chin have been fighting for survival for nearly fifty years, and could be considered the "forgotten people."

Currently more than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, and Chin men, women, and children live in refugee camps in Thailand and India. Thousands more are internally displaced in the Burmese jungle. These internally displaced individuals are cutoff from outside assistance and live one step ahead of roving Burmese soldiers.

In FY 1998 the ceiling for refugee admissions from East Asia was 14,000. In the first seven months of that year, some 4,400 refugees arrived in the U.S., only 86 were from Burma. Most of these were ethnic Burmese.

In FY 1999, 10,204 refugees entered the United States from East Asia. The majority of FY 1999 admissions were from Vietnam. Again, most, if not all the Burma admissions were ethnic Burmese.

Time for Change

It is time for the United States to remember our forgotten allies and specifically include the Karen, Karenni, and Chin refugees and displaced persons in the annual admissions from East Asia.

Please Contact your Congressional Representatives in Washington today.

http://www.house.gov
http://www.senate.gov
Source: Christian Freedom International Website
http://www.christianfreedom.org/campaigns/refugeepolicy.html

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