Refugees from Burma

Three Karen people wearing traditional clothing

Burma is home to more than 135 different ethnic groups, each with its own culture, values, history and language. Over the past 15 years, refugees from Burma have resettled in Minnesota. Today, there are more than 12,000 Karen people live in Minnesota, making it the largest Karen community in the country. Minnesota is also home to more than 1,000 refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma. Refugees from Burma come to Minnesota for the same reasons many people do: to find good jobs, access high-quality education, and connect with a strong community.

Many adult ESL classes in throughout the Twin Cities have students who are originally from Burma. To learn more about this group of students, visit the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM) at and read about the various ethnic groups from Burma, Karen culture and history, and resources and programs to support this population.

The new video “Difficult to Stay, Difficult to Go Home” highlights the plight of refugees from Burma living in Thai refugee camps. The video can be viewed at  Video description: Refugees on the Thai-Burma border are finding it difficult to stay, difficult to go home as funding cuts to refugee camps have left over 100,000 displaced people to choose between trying to survive in difficult conditions and returning to a country not ready to receive them.

Burma has been in the news frequently, with its persecution of the Rohingya minority group. The Rohingya have lived in Burma for hundreds of years, but they are not considered one of the country's 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless. To learn more about the Rohingya and the abuses against them, visit

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