AIZAWL: With a fresh influx of refugees from coup-hit Myanmar in over a week, the total of number of people taking shelter in Mizoram has mounted to 13,000, officials said on Monday.
According to district administration and police officials, men, women and children from Myanmar, specially from Chin state, are crossing over to Mizoram's southern and eastern border districts. Officials and elected representatives, who are closely monitoring developments in Myanmar, said that continued clashes between the Army and the civilian groups there forced the people to cross over and seek refuge in the Indian state. An MP from Mizoram said that there are a large number of people waiting across the border to take shelter in Mizoram, while more are likely to come after their harvest season. Data maintained by the CID shows that the Myanmar nationals mostly take shelter in six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Lawngtlai, Siaha, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – with Champhai housing the highest number of around 6,000. As many as 1,630 people are in Aizawl.
Security and district officials, legislators and others said that the distressed refugees from Myanmar have crossed the Tiau river in small country boats to take shelter in the border villages. "The river Tiau (which flows along the Champhai district in eastern Mizoram and divides India and Myanmar) was crossed by the refugees in small boats with the help of local Mizos," a Mizoram NGO leader said. "The hapless people with no option to survive the Army onslaught took shelter in our side and the Mizo villagers on humanitarian ground provided them food and shelter," he added.
Mizoram shares 510 km international border with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. Besides Mizoram's most influential NGO Young Mizo Association, various churches including Presbyterian, Baptist and Roman Catholic are, on humanitarian grounds, providing food, essentials, clothing and shelter to the refugees since March.
On a number of occasions, Chief Minister Zoramthanga has urged 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 and Home Minister Amit Shah over phone on a number of occasions, requested them to extend humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar refugees.
"The Central government is yet to respond positively and has remained silent on the issue," he said, adding that he has been in constant touch with the External Affairs Ministry and the Home Ministry, and the people of Mizoram are deeply disappointed over the Centre's silence and "apathetic" attitude towards the distressed people from Myanmar. He said that the State is now reeling under a severe financial crisis, limited infrastructure of health and other services and non-availability of required manpower, as the COVID pandemic has also badly affected the State's overall situation.
Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Chief Minister Rosangzuala is regularly in touch with Central ministers and officials to provide financial assistance and other support to the refugees. An MHA advisory, recently sent out to the four north-eastern States, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, which share 1,640-km unfenced border with Myanmar, said 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. (IANS)