U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announces the department will temporarily extend legal status for several thousand people from Myanmar in the United States through May of 2024. Photo by Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced Monday it will expand and extend Temporary Protected Status for several thousand people from Myanmar for an additional 18 months following last year's military coup that has led to ongoing violence and human rights abuses in the Asian country.
The Department of Homeland Security's announcement allows Myanmar nationals, residing in the United States as of Sunday, to receive legal status through May 25, 2024. DHS also announced a re-designation for Myanmar, also known as Burma, to expand the number of people protected.
"The people of Burma are continuing to suffer a complex and deteriorating humanitarian crisis due to the military coup and security forces' brutal violence against civilians," said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. "Under this extension and re-designation, Burmese nationals and habitual residents will be eligible to temporarily stay in the United States until conditions in the country improve and individuals can safely return."
DHS has blamed the February 2021 military coup for the use of deadly force against unarmed individuals, as well as poor humanitarian conditions, limited access to shelter, food, water and medical care, along with arbitrary detentions. The ongoing turmoil, which has also spurred an economic crisis, "prevents Myanmar nationals and habitual residents from safely returning."
The department estimates there are currently 970 Myanmar nationals who can retain TPS through May of 2024, as long as they continue to meet eligibility requirements. DHS also estimates there are 2,290 additional people who may be eligible for TPS with the re-designation of Myanmar.
Current beneficiaries must re-register for the TPS extension by Nov. 26 to keep their TPS and work authorization without a gap.
First-time applicants for TPS under the re-designation of Myanmar must submit new paperwork online between Tuesday and May 25, 2024.
The number of internally displaced people in Myanmar topped 1 million for the first time in June, according to the United Nations, with almost 700,000 being forced to relocate due to the conflict.
Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, overthrew the civilian government and detained officials including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint on Feb. 1, 2021.
The Tatmadaw claimed the results of a landslide electoral victory by Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy were fraudulent -- charges refuted by the country's election committee, as well as independent observers from several monitoring bodies.
Civil disobedience and nationwide protests immediately followed, which the junta brutally suppressed and which have hardened into an internal conflict that some describe as a full-fledged civil war.
A March report by the United Nation's human rights body found that the military abuses in Myanmar may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Last week, U.N. officials announced military rulers in Myanmar killed at least 11 children following an airstrike on civilian areas that included a school.
According to the Thailand-based monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 15,600 people have been arrested since the coup and 2,319 have been killed.