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After backlash, Manipur retracts letter on Myanmar refugees

The Manipur government has withdrawn a letter issued last week directing officials to not set up any camps for Myanmar nationals crossing the border into India and to “politely turn away” those seeking refuge.

Meanwhile, even though the Union Home Ministry asserted that the refugees should be identified and deported, the Mizoram government is planning to provide employment to refugees under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

‘Misconstrued’

“It appears that the contents of the letter have been misconstrued and interpreted differently. The State government has been taking all humanitarian steps had recently taken all steps, including taking them to Imphal, to treat the injured Myanmarese nationals. The State government continues to provide all aid,” said H. Gyan Prakash, Special Secretary (Home) in Manipur Government in another letter dated March 29.

“In order to avoid this misunderstanding I am directed to convey the decision of the Government that it has decided to withdraw the letter dated 26.03.2021 mentioned above,” Mr. Prakash added.

In the March 26 letter to Deputy Commissioners of five districts bordering Myanmar, Mr. Prakash had said that in case of grievous injuries, medical attention may be provided on “humanitarian considerations” and also directed that Aadhar enrolment “should be stopped immediately and Aadhar enrolment kits taken into safe custody.” The letter drew sharp reactions from various sections on social media.

A State government official said the government was now supporting those seeking refuge.

Livelihood options

Rajya Sabha member from the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) M. Vanlalvena told The Hindu that the refugees living in Mizoram will have to work to earn a living till the situation improved.

“More than thousand refugees have come; they are living in villages across the State. The State government has decided that they need to be given work so that they can earn a living. Work will be allocated to them under NREGS,” Mr. Vanlalvena said.

The MGNREGS is a central government scheme meant only for Indian citizens but the rules are notified by the State government.

When asked if providing work will violate the norms, Mr. Vanlalvena said, “the State government can decide the projects and the people who can be employed through the scheme. We do not know for how long they [refugees] will have to stay here. They cannot live here for free so this decision has been taken.”

He added that Chief Minister Zoramthanga has granted ₹1 lakh from the CM relief fund to provide for food and relief to the refugees fleeing military crackdown in Myanmar.

“The civil society groups, with the help of local television channels have so far raised more than ₹16 lakh to help the people. India is a good country, we cannot let them down. If they go back they will be killed,” the MP said.

MHA stand

The Home Ministry has sent two letters so far to Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram that the refugees should be identified and deported and that State governments have no powers to grant “refugee” status to any foreigner” as India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. The four States share border with Myanmar.

A source in the Ministry said, “The instructions are clear that all the illegal migrants will have to be deported. The Assam Rifles have been instructed to stop them from entering. We are aware about the CM’s letter to the Prime Minister and it is being examined.”

On March 18, Mr. Zoramthanga had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “India cannot turn a blind eye” to the humanitarian crisis unfolding right in its backyard and the “political refugees” from Myanmar should be given asylum and provided food and shelter.

The Myanmarese refugees belong to the Chin ethnic group comprising Lai, Tidim-Zomi, Lusei and Hualngo tribes — related to the dominant Mizos in the Northeast. The Tatmadaw, or Myanmar military, had taken over the country after a coup on February 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manipur government has withdrawn the letter issued last week directing officials to not set up any camps for Myanmar nationals crossing the border into India and to “politely turn away” those seeking refuge.

“It appears that the contents of the letter have been misconstrued and interpreted differently. The State government has been taking all humanitarian steps had recently taken all steps, including taking them to Imphal, to treat the injured Myanmarese nationals. The State government continues to provide all aid,” said H. Gyan Prakash, Special Secretary (Home) in Manipur government in the letter dated March 29.

“In order to avoid this misunderstanding I am directed to convey the decision of the government that it has decided to withdraw the letter dated 26.03.2021 mentioned above,” Mr. Prakash added.

In the letter dated March 26 to the Deputy Commissioners of five districts bordering Myanmar, Mr. Prakash said that in case of grievous injuries, medical attention may be provided on “humanitarian considerations” and also directed that Aadhaar enrolment “should be stopped immediately and Aadhaar enrolment kits taken into safe custody.”

The letter drew sharp reactions from various sections on social media.

Neighbouring State Mizoram which shares a 510-km border with Myanmar has been at odds with the Centre on the treatment of Myanmar nationals seeking refuge in India. Initially, the Mizoram government had issued guidelines directing officials to provide shelter to those crossing over following the coup on February1.

The guidelines were withdrawn based on directions of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the MHA issued guidelines in this regard to all States bordering Myanmar.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 2:38:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/manipur-govt-withdraws-circular-telling-officials-to-turn-away-myanmar-refugees/article34195785.ece

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