Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 06083162 (posted Aug. 31, 2006)"
Office of the Spokesman
August 30, 2006
The Department of State Decides Material Support Inapplicable to Second Group
of Karen Refugees in Thailand
The Department of State has exercised discretionary authority under the
Immigration and Nationality Act, so that refugees in camps in Thailand who are
provided access to the US Refugee Admissions Program and who meet all other
eligibility requirements for resettlement under the Administration's Refugee
Admissions Program, including that they pose no danger to the safety and
security of the United States, can resettle in the United States even if they
have "provided material support" to the Karen National Union (KNU). This
determination will allow the Department of Homeland Security to approve
otherwise eligible Karen refugees for admission to the U.S. The Department of
Homeland Security is the agency responsible for adjudicating refugee
applications for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
There are well over 100,000 ethnic Karen refugees from Burma in camps in
Thailand, many of whom fled military attacks on their villages over the last
decade. These refugees have been identified as a population of special
humanitarian concern to the United States due to the persecution they have
experienced and because for many resettlement will be the preferred durable
solution. Because of their links to the KNU, a significant portion of these
refugees is expected to be affected by the "material support" issue. The KNU,
founded in 1948, historically has functioned as the de facto civilian
government of the Karen people in the areas it controlled, resisting the
repression of and seeking autonomy from the Burmese regime. The Karen National
Liberation Army (KNLA) is the armed wing of the KNU. In early 2004, Burma 's
military regime and the KNU entered into a temporary ceasefire, but the talks
have since stalled, failing to formalize an end to the conflict.
The Department exercised this authority earlier this year with respect to
refugees from the Tham Hin camp in Thailand. Of the more than 9500 refugees in
Tham Hin, approximately one-third of the population came forward for
resettlement consideration by the United States. Of that number, 2700 were
approved. A handful of these Karen refugees have already arrived in the U.S.
The Department of State expects that about half of the 2700 will arrive by
October 1 of this year, and the balance early in FY 2007. It is our policy not
to comment publicly on where refugees will be resettled, in order to protect
and respect the privacy of the applicants and their families and the integrity
and confidentiality of the asylum process.
Released on August 30, 2006