The Biden administration will grant temporary eviction assistance and work permits to Burmese citizens living in the United States due to the military crackdown following the February 1st coup, senior officials said on Friday.
The ruling means that around 1,600 Burmese are already in the United States, including diplomats who broke with the Burmese junta, will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, two officials told Reuters.
The program grants immigrants who cannot return to their countries safely, for reasons such as natural disasters or armed conflict, the opportunity to stay and work legally in the United States for a set period that can be renewed.
Officials said the situation in Myanmar after the army seized power prevented the Burmese from returning, citing the violent crackdown by security forces, arbitrary detentions and worsening humanitarian conditions.
Thomas Andrews, the United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar said Thursday that the junta had killed at least 70 people and detained more than 2,000.
Some Myanmar diplomats stationed in the United States have spoken out publicly against the military, including Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun.
Diplomats who “have courageously joined the civil disobedience movement in solidarity with their compatriots at home” may remain in the United States under the program, an official said.
“We want them to know that it is safe to do this,” the official said.
U.S. officials have said that unless the military changes course, more punitive action is likely. “If they don’t restore democracy and stop violence against civilians, then we will continue to take action… against military leaders and their financial networks,” an official said.
President Joe Biden last month imposed sanctions on Myanmar against those responsible for ousting the civilian government of the Southeast Asian nation, including the defence minister and three jade companies and precious stones.
Earlier this week, Washington imposed sanctions on two children of previously appointed military chief Min Aung Hlaing and six companies they control. However, it has so far withheld sanctions against military conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), among those used by the military to control large swathes of the economy.
“We are looking at companies owned by the military,” the official said. “The severity of the crisis on the ground means that one set of tools will not be enough.”