Final 23 Myanmar refugees arrive in Japan on resettlement program

Kyodo

Twenty-three refugees from Myanmar who had fled to Thailand arrived Friday evening in Tokyo, the last group to do so under a Japanese pilot resettlement program begun in fiscal 2010.

The 23, from five families, mostly belong to the Karen ethnic minority. They will take Japanese-language lessons and job training while searching for housing and employment.

The resettlement program has failed to meet the annual quota of accepting 30 refugees, with none arriving in 2012 and only 86 coming over the entire period, which was extended from three to five years.

The government plans to accept Myanmar refugees staying in Malaysia from next year.

The program didn’t go as planned because potential participants had little grasp of the terms of the resettlement and the conditions they could expect in Japan, observers say.

Promoted by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the third-country resettlement program is designed to help people who have fled their homes to a nearby country resettle in a safe third country.

About 120,000 Myanmar refugees currently live in refugee camps in Thailand. The Thai junta that seized power in May has reportedly agreed with Myanmar to send the refugees back, but no timetable or other details have been announced.