Thai refugee camps like Mae La are already stretched far beyond capacity, and more refugees are arriving all the time. With the refugees unable to return to Burma or enter Thailand, the Thai government is working with the UNHCR to find permanent homes for them. Resettlement is an option only provided to the most vulnerable 1% of the 10.4 million refugees worldwide known to the UNHCR, and strict assessment criteria must be met before refugee status is considered.
International resettlement from the Thai camps began in 2004. By June 2009, 50,000 refugees had been resettled from the region, with 18,000 departures expected throughout 2009. Refugees have been relocated to the United States, Canada, Australia, UK, Finland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
The UK Home Office joined the resettlement scheme in 2004, when the UK government established the Gateway Protection Programme. This scheme was intended to be a way to go for 500 of the most vulnerable refugees to by-pass normal asylum channels each year, and the annual quota was later increased to 750. The International Organisation for Migration facilitates the resettlement itself, while various NGOs, including the Refugee Council and Refugee Action, support the new arrivals during their first year in Britain. Sheffield City Council were the first local authority to accept Gateway refugees, and now 14 other councils have followed their lead. As a result, 2000 vulnerable refugees have been offered sanctuary in the UK since 2004.