Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mae La Oon people reach Prince Edward Island _CBC

Mae La Oon people reach Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown: CBC, 13-09-06

Ten refugees from Burma are making Prince Edward Island their new home. The refugees are part of a group of more than 800 from the ethnic group Karen being accepted by Canada as part of an international resettlement.

The first of those refugees, 20-year-old Kerhtoo Pwaytha, will arrive at the Charlottetown airport Wednesday evening to start a new life in a new place. For the last decade, she was living in a camp in Thailand, along with thousands of other Karen refugees who have been driven from their homes by political strife and persecution.

John Barrett, director of operations with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, told CBC News that life has been difficult for the refugees. "It's been pretty horrendous over the last several years," he said. "One of the refugee camps that these folks are coming from is on the border, and it's subject to mudslides, landslides and even civil unrest within the refugee camp itself."

To make that transition from remote refugee camp to Western society, volunteers from the First Baptist Church in Charlottetown have offered their assistance. They've been working with new immigrants for years. Rev. Kathy Neely says they'll help the refugees with translation and negotiating day-to-day life. "Some of them have never seen running water, toilets, electricity, cellphones," says Neely. "They're just basically going to have to be taught life skills."

There are an estimated 140,000 refugees from Burma living in Thai camps, and Canada is just one of several Western countries accepting large groups of them. Nine more Karen refugees are expected on the Island in the coming weeks.

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