Written Answers. - Humanitarian Aid.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

42 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to concerns that humanitarian aid to Burma may be diverted by the military regime there; and the steps, if any, he and his EU colleagues are taking to ensure that Burma receives humanitarian aid and that this gets through to the needy Burmese people. [8250/98]

In accordance with the Common Position adopted by the European Union on 28 October 1996, all non-humanitarian aid and development assistance to Burma has been suspended. This stance was adopted in response to the belief that such assistance was being diverted by the military regime currently in control there.

Since then, the provision of humanitarian aid from the Government to vulnerable Burmese populations has focused on the large numbers of Burmese refugees outside the country. These refugees include those along the Thai-Burma border who are largely from the Karen ethnic group and are being assisted by a number of international agencies, including Trócaire. The Government provided a grant of £50,000 in May 1997 for Trócaire's work in this area.

This approach is similar to that taken by the European Commission and our EU partners. I understand that the European Community Humanitarian Office, ECHO, has focused its aid on these refugees. Almost 3 million ecu was dispersed by ECHO in 1997 for this purpose. In addition, ECHO has given smaller grants to European NGOs providing humanitarian assistance to the victims of conflict within Burma; during 1997, these grants amounted to a total of 675,000 ecu.