IRIN News on Tuesday examined the resettlement of refugees from Myanmar, some of whom are living with medical conditions such as tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. According to IRIN News, as of January 2009, the Myanmar resettlement program had resettled 43,000 refugees since the program began in 2004. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the program is expected to resettle an additional 13,000 refugees this year. UNHCR first identifies refugees who want to resettle, and then other countries decide which individuals and families to accept. The International Organization for Migration then coordinates transportation, cultural orientation and language lessons for the refugees.
According to Mohammad Razwari, an IOM physician at Pawo Hospital in Thailand, all refugees must undergo a health assessment and receive medical clearance before resettlement. He said the assessment "identifies any health problems or health risks as well as determin[es] whether the patient is safe to fly and that they are not a health hazard to other travelers." Razwari said that all HIV-positive refugees receive awareness training before resettlement and that any refugees with TB or psychological issues receive treatment before departure. He said, "All those with medical problems receive adequate treatment first and then are allowed to depart."
Although many countries choose to resettle refugees with significant education or skills, other countries -- such as Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway -- "actually seek out refugees with serious medical conditions," Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR senior regional public information officer for Asia and the Pacific, said, adding that such countries select refugees "strictly on humanitarian grounds." According to IRIN News, the U.S. has accepted more than 14,000 refugees from the border area between Myanmar and Thailand since 2004. Tim Scherer, refugee coordinator in Thailand for the U.S. Department of State, said that the U.S. accepts people from Myanmar for resettlement "based on their legitimate refugee status, and this includes even those with serious medical disabilities" (IRIN News, 4/28).
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