Crowdsourcing Refugee Resettlement—What's Your Idea?

Even after getting arrested and suffering a narrow brush with deportation, Samy is still hiding out in the bustling Thai city of Chiang Mai. He tells me that he’s going to head home soon, but before he does, an aid group is going to take him to make an appeal to the consulate. Though he’s not exactly sure how much this will help, he says they could have important information and may be able to wield influence over the resettlement process.

I have my doubts, but decide to stay positive.

"Stay positive." I wonder if Samy has a comparable mantra handy. If so, he might employ it when he returns to his home in the Mae La refugee camp, only to find out there’s going to be a temporary, but potentially major, food shortage. Due to a lapse in funding, a central aid group will no longer be able to provide any yellow bean, one of the three major foodstuffs the refugees depend on. For the time being, the refugees will survive, but if more backing isn’t secured, it could be trouble.

This report on the food supply comes from the Democratic Voice of Burma, one of the few reliable sources of independent journalism and good reporting on Myanmar affairs. If it weren't for the DVB and a handful of other organizations like Mizzima, there would be a serious void in our knowledge of what actually goes on inside Burma. (To get a quick idea about the tenacity of the reporters flouting those restrictions, I wholeheartedly recommend the film Burma VJ.)

Thanks to more widespread internet access and foreign servers, undercover operatives working with journalists and locals are able to gather reports and file them abroad—a covert kind of crowdsourcing in an otherwise closed country. It’s inspiring stuff. And it’s reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: It's time for me to ask for your help in getting Samy out of Burma.

Thus far, I’ve received a number of very kind emails from readers voicing support for this effort, offering to help, or seeking to engage refugee issues in some way. I want to thank everyone for writing and to ask you to keep them coming.

As you know if you’ve been following along, I’ve encountered many hurdles en route to securing resettlement for Samy, some of which appear all but insurmountable at times. So if you have any ideas regarding refugee resettlement, or any expertise on the subject, I’d love to hear from you. And if you know anyone that may have such ideas or expertise, please forward this story to them. There may be laws or loopholes or provisions that I’ve overlooked, ideas I haven’t given credence to, and so on. Even though I’ve talked to numerous experts already, there’s always room for new perspectives.

If ordinary citizens can risk their lives to crowdsource journalism in a country run by a military junta, then we can pool our resources to find a way to rescue a young man who’s been persecuted by that country. Right?

I certainly hope so.

Share your ideas in the comments, and send your ideas, suggestions, tips, or thoughts to briancmerchant (at) gmail (dot) com

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