Nearly 1,000 migrant workers who returned to Muse, northern Shan State from China are currently struggling to find food and sufficient housing.
Around 500 migrant workers come back to Burma through the Nandaw border gate in Muse daily, and nearly 10,000 people have returned from China since early April. The majority of migrant workers had worked in sugar cane farms, earning little money even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and all now currently out of work.
Shelters opened for the purpose of holding returning migrants are now full, the workers say.
Yan Soe, who returned from China, said that all returnees are required to stay in specially designated areas have to follow guidelines from local officials, who organize the rest of their returns home, but require the returned migrants to pay.
“I have been staying here for three days. There are many people staying here. Donors can provide only breakfast. We have to buy food. I’m almost out of money,” Yan Soe told SHAN, adding that he needs to save enough to get his bus ticket.
Zar Chi, who returned from China and hopes to get back home to Myingyan in Mandalay Region, said that food in Muse costs about 1,500-2,000 kyat (US$1.00-1.50) per meal and the temporary housing facilities are overcrowded.
“It’s really difficult to stay here. There are many children and pregnant women. It’s difficult to sleep at night. We are all staying together here,” she told SHAN.
Muse Township General Administrative Department officer Thurein, said that government health staff have carried out medical checks on the returned migrant workers and donors provide food.
However, the returnees told SHAN that they had not undergone any medical checks.
“We returned from Yunnan Province. We have been here for three days. Nobody came to check our health. We have to stay here, with difficulties,” Soe Min, who is hoping to return to Irrawaddy Region, said.
Returnees are now asking that they be allowed to arrange their own onward travels.