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Suriname: Treatment of ethnic Chinese and government response (2005-2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 14 January 2008
Citation / Document Symbol SUR102701.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Suriname: Treatment of ethnic Chinese and government response (2005-2007), 14 January 2008, SUR102701.E, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A Dutch researcher who wrote a PhD thesis submitted to the University of Amsterdam on Chinese migrants in Suriname provided information to the Research Directorate in a telephone interview conducted on 17 December 2007. The Researcher, who is originally from Suriname, conducted field research in Suriname between 2001 and 2004 (Researcher 17 Dec. 2007). Information provided by the Researcher is contained in the following two paragraphs.

The Researcher stated that ethnic Chinese people in Suriname are "not treated badly in the sense of experiencing overt discrimination that is publicly acknowledged." He added that to the best of his knowledge, there has been no ethnic violence targeting the Chinese in Suriname.

The Researcher explained that that although ethnic Chinese first came to Suriname as indentured labourers in the late 19th Century, a "huge influx" of Chinese migrants immigrated to Suriname in the 1990s. He indicated that there is growing anti-Chinese sentiment that has focussed on this influx. He stated that racial slurs are used in common parlance to describe the high numbers of Chinese immigrants, adding that these slurs are also used in media reports. He further stated that ethnic Chinese are generally treated disrespectfully and like "outsiders" by the Surinamese.

No corroborating information for the Researcher's comments could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, a 2006 Caribbean Net News article reported on a presidential speech as follows:

Suriname president Ronald Ventiaan in his annual budget address in parliament on Monday warned against possible ethnic violence in Suriname. According to the Head of State there are signs of promoting ethnic rallying which could ultimately result in an ethnic divided community and a disruption of [the] brotherly atmosphere in Surname.

He further noticed that there is a campaign based on generalization going on in society against immigrants and tourists from one specific part of the world, hinting at China. Within the community there is growing criticism of the seemingly unstoppable arrival of Chinese immigrants and establishment of supermarkets, hardware stores and other businesses owned by these immigrants. (Caribbean Net News 5 Oct. 2006)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 notes that Suriname prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, and reports that no complaints of discrimination were filed in 2006 (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). However, the Researcher expressed his opinion that someone who was the victim of discrimination would not know where to report the incident (17 Dec. 2007). He added that there is no system in place to address problems concerning discrimination in Suriname (Researcher 17 Dec. 2007). The Researcher also voiced his opinion that the police treat ethnic Chinese in a disrespectful manner, for example when store-owners report robberies (ibid.). He likewise stated that the government of Suriname did not respond when members of the Chinese community complained to the Ministry of Justice about the fact that the Chinese are over-represented in property crime statistics (ibid.). No information could be found by the Research Directorate to corroborate this statement. The Researcher explained that because the Chinese dominate the retail trade, they are more often the victims of robberies (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Caribbean Net News. 5 October 2007. Ivan Cairo. "Suriname President Warns Against Ethnic Clashes." [Accessed 12 Dec. 2007]

Researcher, University of Amsterdam. 17 December 2007. Telephone interview conducted by the Research Directorate.

United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Suriname." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 17 Dec. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Publications, including: Journal of Chinese Overseas.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Batvia Books, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Freedom House, government of Suriname, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas, the North-South Institute (NSI), United Nations (UN), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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