Download the guide to Karen culture, faith and history

Karen Refugees

About Karen refugees

More than 140,000 refugees live in camps along the Thai-Burma border. Most of these refugees are ethnic minority Karen.

They have fled their homeland to escape killings, torture, rape, landmines and forced labour by the Burmese military regime.

The refugee camps are administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Refugees who are registered with the UNHCR can apply to the Australian Embassy in Bangkok be resettled in Australia. Refugees must be interviewed by the Australian government Department of Immigration and pass medical checks before being accepted to come to Australia. Karen refugees do not come to Australia unless they have been approved by the Australian government.

Burma is a Buddhist country, and the vast majority of refugees from Burma are Buddhist. However the vast majority of refugees from Burma selected for resettlement in Australia are Christian.

Recent statistics from the Department of Immigration show that more than 80% of Karen refugees arriving in Australia are Christian, while only 11% are Buddhist.

What we are doing about this situation

The Karen Buddhist Dhamma Dhutta Foundation supports Karen refugees to start new lives in Bendigo in regional Australia. This matches the Australian government policy of resettling refugees in regional areas.

To overcome discrimination against Karen Buddhist refugees we sponsor equal numbers of Buddhist and Christian refugees. We also try to help some refugees of other ethnic groups and religions. This way we are giving equal chance to refugees of different religions and ethnic groups, rather than discriminating against any group.

Getting involved

There are many ways you can help Karen Buddhist and Karen Christian refugees:

  • You can join our campaign to lobby the Australian government to bring more Karen refugees to Australia, and make the refugee program more fair and equitable
  • You can sponsor a Karen refugee family to come as refugees
  • You can assist with fundraising for airfares for refugees
  • You can volunteer with newly arrived refugees
  • You can lobby the Australian government to make the refugee program more fair and equitable

If you are interested please contact us.


Photo: UNHCR (top) and TBBC (above). | Resources | Add Links | Privacy |