This paper commissioned by UNHCR, explores the capacities and mechanisms for ‘self-protection’ that exist among Karen refugees in ‘temporary settlements’ in Thailand. The paper looks particularly at the social and internal political structures that have developed over more than 20 years of refugee life. It explores the ways that refugees make decisions, and what present decisions related to ending their displacement currently entail. It further analyses typical community responses to ongoing protection threats inside Myanmar, and offers loose guidance on how such mechanisms could be supported by protection actors to support rehabilitation in the context of voluntary returns. Throughout, general recommendations are provided to guide international actors engaging in programmes related to refugee repatriation.
Download the paper here.
Key Findings and Conclusions
- Refugees deem the achievement of a deep peace, including guarantees for human security, and freedom from exploitation by armed actors as the primary requisite to repatriation.
- The ability for refugees to pursue durable solutions to displacement themselves, voluntarily and in safety and dignity, is severely restricted by lack of knowledge regarding their circumstances – and refugee status – and the reasons their future situation may not be sustainable if the initial reasons for their seeking refuge and international protection cease to exist.
- Refugee leaders and CBOs are well placed to inform refugees of their evolving situation and options in a locally appropriate manner.
- Refugee leaders and CBOs have an influential role in the refugee society, and are depended on by many of the refugees. This represents a core capacity for community-based protection that international actors should support.
- Decision making will be a highly protracted process for all refugees as migration choices have been in these communities for decades if not centuries.
- An internationally verified peace settlement and/or a tripartite agreement on repatriation would heavily influence the independent decisions of many refugees.
- Communities are already communicating with or visiting their communities of origin and would benefit from support for such activities, as they get closer to considering repatriation.
- Respected community-level administration structures from the refugee camps could be enhanced in the context of repatriation reintegration for protection aims, including negotiations with armed actors and government.
This paper was written in early 2014, then updated in 2015.
This paper was commissioned by UNHCR as a piece of external research and does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency
Research Assistant:Thoowa Wachisukhonwana