China has begun a forced return of thousands of ethnic Kachin refugees to northern Burma, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
|Kachin refugees in China's Nongdao camp before being sent back to Burma. Photo: KNG|
China soon plans to deport another 4,000 refugees, said HRW. Most of the returnees will find it too dangerous to return to their home villages, leaving them displaced amid an armed conflict in Kachin State, it said.
China should change course and provide temporary protection for the Kachin refugees in Yunnan Province, said the nongovernmental agency.
While the Chinese government has provided sanctuary to an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin who fled conflict-related abuses in Burma and sought safety in Yunnan Province, the authorities have failed to provide many of them full protection or aid, HRW said, adding that the Chinese government has denied United Nations and international humanitarian agencies much-needed access to these refugees.
Those forced to return to Burma will be relegated to living in camps for internally displaced people that lack adequate aid and are currently isolated from UN agencies because the Burmese government has blocked humanitarian access to the area, it said.
The opposition Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) worked with the Chinese authorities to facilitate the returns, said HRW.
Hundreds were transported on buses on August 22 to a makeshift camp a few miles outside Maijayang, in a KIO-controlled area of Kachin State, while the refugees’ belongings were carried on trucks. Hundreds of other refugees were transported to Burmese-government-controlled areas outside Namkham, Kachin aid workers told Human Rights Watch.
The KIO is setting up new camps in territory under its control in Kachin State, but the camps are still inadequate, according to HRW.
The forced returns come during the height of the rainy season, complicating transportation and humanitarian aid delivery.
In June, Human Rights Watch released a 68-page report, “Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China’s Yunnan Province.”
There are over 85 camps of internally displaced people in Kachin State, housing an estimated 75,000 people, who lack adequate humanitarian aid. Approximately 16 of the camps, in KIO-controlled areas, are already home to at least 55,000 Kachin, and there are food shortages at some of those sites, HRW said.
All camps in KIO territory are generally inaccessible to UN agencies because of restrictions imposed by the government.
Assistance from UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations is provided regularly to displaced Kachin in 70 locations in government-controlled areas, but the aid remains inadequate due to limited resources and the blockage of assistance, said HRW.