Myanmar policemen, who fled Myanmar and crossed illegally to India, are pictured at an undisclosed location in Mizoram on March 15, 2021
Myanmar policemen, who fled Myanmar and crossed illegally to India, are pictured at an undisclosed location in Mizoram on March 15, 2021
AFP

The Mizoram government is in favour of allowing refugees from Myanmar while Centre has asked all bordering states and paramilitary forces on the border to prevent the influx and deport those who have come in since the February coup in the neighbouring country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had on March 10 written to the chief secretaries of four Myanmar-bordering states Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, asking them to take appropriate action as per the law to check the influx of people from the neighbouring country. The Home Ministry had also asked the border states to identify illegal immigrants and take immediate measures to deport them.

A one-year state of emergency has been declared in Myanmar where power has been transferred to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing after President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained by the military on February 1.

Mizoram govt delegation meets Union minister

A high level Mizoram government team on Friday met a Union ministre and urged the central government to provide relief to the people sheltered in the bordering state after fleeing from Myanmar.

A statement by the Mizoram government said that at the instruction of Chief Minister Zoramthanga, a high profile four-member team met Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai at his office in New Delhi and discussed issues concerning relief measures for Myanmar refugees in Mizoram and matters relating to formalities for relocation of Assam Rifles to Zokhawsang from their present location in Aizawl.

The Mizoram team also separately met Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and discussed the issue. The release said that the team voiced the pressing need to extend necessary help and support to Myanmar refugees who are victims of violence and brutality under military rule in Myanmar.

"While ruling out the possibility of deporting these refugees until situation in Myanmar gets back to normal, members of the team requested the central government's intervention for providing necessary relief measures to refugees staying in Mizoram and expressed hope that India will take a more proactive role and raise a stronger voice in support of people fighting for restoration of democracy in Myanmar," it said.

The four-member team comprising Mizoram's Lok Sabha C Lalrosanga, Rajya Sabha member K Vanlalvena, the State Planning Board Vice-Chairman H Rammawi and Mizo National Front Adviser Rosangzuala, also urged the Union Minister to take appropriate steps to relocate the Assam Rifles Headquarters to Zokhawsang.

Over 300 Myanmar nationals who have crossed the border

Vanlalvena, on Tuesday while discussing the matter in the Rajya Sabha urged the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to consider the plight of the people protesting against the military rule in Myanmar and relax its policy towards Myanmar refugees crossing over to India.

He informed the House that over 300 Myanmar nationals who have crossed the border are currently taking shelter in Mizoram, of which about 150 are police personnel.

Vanlalvena told the House that it would not go down well with the people in Mizoram if the Central government insists on deporting these refugees, who belong to the Mizo ethnic tribe, and it is not possible to deport them until the situation in Myanmar improves.

Vanlalvena, who is also a senior leader of the ruling MNF, told IANS over phone from Delhi that he also met Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and sought the central government's intervention for restoration of peace in the coup-hit Myanmar.

Providing immediate help and shelter to refugees: Mizoram govt

Mizoram government official release said that the state government and NGOs in Mizoram have been providing immediate help and shelter to these refugees.

Meanwhile, the MHA had recently given directions to the chief secretaries of four northeastern states -- Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur -- sharing borders with Myanmar to not entertain Myanmar refugees. It also instructed Assam Rifles to seal the border and prevent entry from the neighbouring country, the release said.

A Mizoram government official said that the Deputy Secretary (NE), MHA, Krishna Mohan Uppu, in his March 10 letter to the chief secretaries of these four states and the Director General of Assam Rifles had asked them to sensitise all the law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in identifying illegal migrants and initiate their deportation process without delay.

Uppu said that the Ministry's Foreigners' Division had also issued instructions to the chief secretaries on February 28 for asking law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take prompt steps for identifying illegal migrants, their restrictions to specific locations as per provisions of law, capturing their biographic and biometrics particulars, cancellation of fake Indian documents and legal proceedings, including initiation of deportation.

The letter, available with IANS, reiterated that the state governments and UT administrations 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.The four northeastern states share a 1,643 km unfenced border with Myanmar.

Myanmar's Falam district authorities last week requested the Deputy Commissioner of Champai district in Mizoram to send back their police officers, who had crossed into Mizoram since March 3.

Row over Mizoram government SOP

Earlier, the Mizoram government had issued an SOP on February 27 for the “facilitation of refugees and migrants from Myanmar in connection with the political developments” in Myanmar. The SOP said that “only those persons (and their family members), whose life is in immediate and imminent threat due to political/ organisational affiliations in connection with the political development shall be facilitated and treated as refugees”.

However, Assam Rifles, which guards the 510-km India-Myanmar Border in Mizoram, wrote to Centre in early March, saying that the state is “supporting the movement” of refugees and has “promulgated an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to manage” them, the Indian Express reported.

Assam Rifles recommended that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) pass “necessary directions…so that the state government doesn’t facilitate any such movement of Myanmar nationals seeking refuge in Indian territory”.

The state “revoked” the SoP with “immediate effect” on March 6.

While the Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar allows people living within 16 km on either side to travel across the border for a period of 14 days but it was suspended after the pandemic broke out last year.

(With IANS inputs)

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