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Myawaddy, Kayin- Reception Center Feeding
Geneva, 10 January 2013
1. Brief description of the emergency and impact
An estimated more than 4 million Myanmar people live in Thailand, of which 140,000 are, registered refugees living in 9 designated refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. A vast majority of the people are migrant labours working in different parts of Thailand. Out of which an estimated 200,000 are undocumented. Myanmar government expects that an estimated 160,000 of the undocumented people will return back soon and therefore has planned to set up a reception centre in Myawady, Kayin State which is the most likely route for the returnees to go to their place of origin. In addition, 140,000 registered refugees are expected to return to or through Kayin state. Mynamar government has also asked UNHCR and IOM to develop and operate a reception centre for smooth transitioning to their home communities. In addition to the estimated 160,000 migrant labours, it is projected that within a year or two, there will be a coordinated and managed return of 140,000 plus refugees currently living in camps in Thailand.
Undocumented Myanmar migrant workers are in greater need of protection as they are at risk of abuse, extortion and trafficking as they seek alternative measures to stay and work in Thailand. LWF has formally been invited by the Relief and Resettlement Department (our government host) to provide food assistance for those coming through reception centre.
2. Why is an ACT response needed?
Although commitments have been made by the Government to improve access, and some positive developments have taken place in certain states and regions, in Kayin State access remains erratic and limited for international humanitarian staff, warranting the pursuit of every opportunity to gain access. Only after access and local relations are established is it possible for humanitarian or development agencies/NGOs to assist those in need. This would not be a problem if local institutions were prepared on the ground to deal with the eventual return of hundreds of thousands of people from Thailand. In this regard, LWF plans to take advantage of the invitation by the RRD to assist with reception centre feeding to also establish relations and presence in strategic townships to help them prepare for the deluge of returnees.
3. National and international response
As of now, Myanmar government is determined to look after the security, health checkups and screening of citizenship through various line ministries. Government is also discussing with UNHCR and IOM to deal with protection and logistics management of the operation. LWF is asked to operate a feeding program to the people while they are in reception centre for an estimated period of 3 to 5 days to fulfil registration and other formalities.
After returned to the place of residences, concerned township authorities will be responsible for social services, protection, food and nutrition security and livelihood of the returnees. Government is also discussing with the World Food Program, and INGOs including World Vision International, Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, etc.
4. ACT Alliance response and planned activities
LWF is the only ACT Alliance Forum Myanmar implementer. Due to the nature of the required intervention (primarily a simple feeding program), LWF will remain the sole ACT Alliance Forum Myanmar member to participate in any eventual ACT Appeal. Although there has not been any formal ACT Forum Meeting on this topic, the current ACT Alliance Forum Myanmar convener was consulted and concurred with this approach.
Irrespective of this alert or any subsequent ACT Appeal, LWF will open an office in Hpa-an, Kayin, January 2013 in order to start building relations with stakeholders in Kayin, conduct Preliminary assessments and manage LWF’s engagement in Kayin State.
LWF will issue an Appeal for humanitarian assistance in the form of meals to returning illegal migrant workers from Thailand. LWF has agreed to seek the resources to support the feeding program at the proposed reception centre in Myawaddy, Kayin State.
This is a time sensitive matter so LWF will be sending a team to Myawaddy as soon as possible and proposing an ACT Appeal for approximately 1.5 million USD soon after.
The people, LWF will assist in this action, are economic migrants not political refugees the situation is less complex. Our close proximity to the returnees will enable to point out and help fill processing and rights gaps in coordination with the Relief and Resettlement Department, Labor Department, IOM, UNHCR and others.
The very limited access to the most likely villages, where returnees will go, is a huge gap in the current humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction situation. Participation in the feeding program is expected to facilitate improved access for LWF to gather information and begin understanding the needs of the receiving communities in preparation for returning migrant workers and refugees.
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