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15K Myanmarese in Mizoram likely to be recognised as 'tourists'

The 15,000 men, women and children, who have taken shelter in Mizoram from coup-hit Myanmar, are likely to be treated as ‘‘tourists’’ not refugees, a parliament member from the northeastern state said.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 Nov 2021 5:01 AM GMT

AIZAWL: The 15,000 men, women and children, who have taken shelter in Mizoram from coup-hit Myanmar, are likely to be treated as ''tourists'' not refugees, a parliament member from the northeastern state said.

The decision of the government is significant as the Union Home Ministry had sent out an advisory earlier to four northeastern states -- Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh -- which share a 1,640-km unfenced border with Myanmar, saying that the states and Union Territories have no power to grant ''refugee''status to any foreigner, and India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.

An MP from Mizoram, who closely monitors the refugee issue, said that Union Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Minister G. Kishan Reddy has promised to help the state in dealing with Myanmar migrants. The minister has proposed that they be recorded as "Myanmar tourists not as refugees''.

''The Mizoram health department also planned to provide Covid vaccination to the Myanmar nationals sheltered in Mizoram. The inoculation is necessary, otherwise the spread of the coronavirus could not be checked both among the Myanmarese and Indian citizens in Mizoram,'' said the MP.

Currently around 15,000 Myanmar nationals have taken shelter in 11 districts of mountainous Mizoram and most of them are living in relief camps set up by various NGOs, churches and the villagers. A few reside with their relatives in the state and some others in rented houses.

The majority of those who have taken shelter belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos of Mizoram.

According to the official records, the Myanmar refugees mostly take shelter in six Mizoram districts -- Champhai, Lawngtlai, Siaha, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual -- with Champhai housing the highest number of over 7,500 while there are immigrants in the remaining five districts too.

As many as 1,650 people are in Aizawl district.

According to district administration and police officials, the refugees from Myanmar, specially from Chin state, are crossing over to Mizoram's southern and eastern border districts. They said that intermittent clashes between the Myanmar Army and the civilian groups in that trouble torn country forced the people to cross over through the forested and riverine routes and seek refuge in the Indian state.

''The distraught refugees from Myanmar with the help of local Mizos have been sometime crossing the Tiau river in small country boats to take shelter in the border villages of Mizoram,'' said a district administration official. The river Tiau, which flows along the Champhai district in eastern Mizoram, divides India and Myanmar.

Mizoram's most influential NGO -- the Young Mizo Association, various churches including Presbyterian, Baptist and Roman Catholic are providing food, essentials, clothing and shelter to the refugees since March.

Various NGOs and local organisations have formed the Myanmar Refugee Relief Committee and the organisation has been collecting donations, relief material, food, clothes and medicines to help the immigrants.

On a number of occasions, Chief Minister Zoramthanga in separate letters has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar nationals as his state is witnessing a continuing influx of refugees from the neighbouring country.

Mizoram Planning Board Vice Chairman H. Rammawi, who is closely dealing with the Myanmar refugee affairs, said that the Chief Minister, besides writing letters, has also talked to Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah over phone on a number of occasions, requesting them to extend humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar refugees.

Mizoram's lone Lok Sabha Member C. Lalrosanga, Rajya Sabha member K. Vanlalvena, and Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, Rosangzuala are regularly in touch with Central ministers and officials to provide financial assistance and other support to the refugees.

The influx to Mizoram started after a one-year state of emergency was declared in Myanmar, where power was seized by General Min Aung Hlaing after President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained by the military on February 1. (IANS)

Also Read: Mizoram Stops Construction Activities Along Border With Assam

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