Muslim Refugee Clients: Understanding Issues of Migration, Trauma, and Education

Muslim Refugee Clients: Understanding Issues of Migration, Trauma, and Education

M. Gail Hickey (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0018-7.ch005
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More than 160,000 Burmese have come to the United States seeking asylum from war-torn Myanmar. Burmese refugees represent diverse ethnic and religious groups. They may have experienced personal violence and/or years of living in a refugee camp prior to migration and arrive in the US with very different socio-historical experiences than do Asian immigrants. Little is known about the migration experiences of Burmese refugees, and even less is known about the more recently-arrived Muslim Burmese refugee population. The purpose of this chapter is to advance understanding about Muslim perspectives of the U.S. Burmese refugee experience and consider effective strategies for social workers, healthcare workers, and educators who work with Muslim Burmese refugee clients. Muslim Burmese refugees' migration and resettlement experiences are considered through stories of ethnic violence, refugee camp experiences, struggles with language and communication, and adjusting to the mainstream American cultural milieu.
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Burma is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. The nation is ethnically diverse and in comparison with its neighbors China and India, is sparsely populated. Burma has been under military rule since 1962; its people continue to experience torture, imprisonment, widespread rape, and forced labor (Hickey, 2018; Human Rights Watch, 2017).

The lives of ethnic Burmese have been greatly affected by political upheavals and civil unrest since World War II. Burma obtained its independence from Britain in 1948, when the parliamentary democracy known as the Union of Burma was established. The newly formed government was unstable, however, and a civil war erupted between the central authority and ethnic groups who were unhappy with the federal structure. General Ne Win instituted a military dictatorship founded on socialist principles following a 1962 coup and retained power over the country until 1988. Following decades of political stagnation under General Ne Win's rule, the people of Burma rose up in protest on August 8, 1988. Burmese people, in particular ethnic minorities, continue to be subjected to civil wars, ethnic strife, and ongoing human rights violations (UNHCR, 2016). Reasons for refugees fleeing Burma mainly include religious, ethnic, and/or political persecution (Alexander, Arnett, & Jena, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Karen: A Karen is a member of an ethnic group usually found in south and southeast Burma or Thailand. The word Karen also may refer to the Tibeto-Burman language spoken by members of the Karen ethnic group.

Forced Labor: Labor obtained from a person or persons through use of force, physical restraint, or any form of violence and/or intimidation.

Rohingya: A Rohingya is a member of a Muslim ethnic group usually found in southwest Burma. Rohingya also may refer to the Indic language spoken by members of the Rohingya ethnic group.

CHIN: A Chin is a member of the primary ethnic group of Chin State in Burma. Chin also may refer to the very distinctive language spoken by members of the Chin ethnic group.

Burma: Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia in the Bay of Bengal bordered by Bangladesh and India on the west and by Laos and Thailand on the east. Minority ethnic groups in Burma have endured civil war and ethnic strife since 1948.

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