Appalled by the escalating violence in Myanmar and the resulting human suffering and displacement this is causing, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is the UN Refugee Agency, has appealed to countries near Myanmar to offer aid to people displaced due to violence.

“We urgently call on countries across the region to offer refuge and protection to all those fleeing for safety. It is vital that anyone crossing the border, seeking asylum in another country, is able to access it,” said UNHCR in a statement on Wednesday.

Apprehending concerns over an influx of foreign refugees amidst a pandemic, the UNHRC said, “It is a proven fact that humane border practices can be upheld amid public health and other border control measures, to ensure that people in need of protection can access territory and asylum.” It further reiterated, “Children, women and men fleeing for their lives should be given sanctuary. They must not be returned to a place where their lives or freedom may be at risk. This principle of non-refoulement is a cornerstone of international law and is binding on all states.”

A large number of people fleeing the violence in Myanmar have sought asylum in neighboring countries like Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Thailand. While Thailand and India introduced stricter boarder control measures, Malaysia had reportedly deported thousands of asylum seekers despite a court order to halt deportations. Malaysia had sent back 1,086 asylum seekers in February despite a stay order from a Kuala Lumpur court.

*Feature image: Representational image by Joaquin Uy via Wikimedia Commons.