Process asylum pleas of Myanmar refugees in Mizoram, rights group asks NHRC

It also seeks directive to the Centre not to forcibly repatriate the Myanmar nationals until their refugee claims are assessed

March 08, 2021 01:56 pm | Updated 02:01 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Representational image only.

Representational image only.

A New Delhi-based rights group has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to process the asylum or refugee claims of Myanmar nationals who fled the military coup-affected country and had taken shelter in Mizoram.

More than 50 people belonging to the Chin ethnic group — related to the dominant Mizos in the Northeast — have taken shelter in Mizoram since March 1. At least eight of them are police personnel who had deserted and joined the civil disobedience movement in that country.

The Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is called, took over the country on February 1.

In a complaint filed on Monday, the National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) asked the NHRC to send its investigators to Mizoram to interview each of the refugees and determine their refugee status in conformity with national laws and India’s obligations under international laws.

The rights organisation also asked the NHRC to direct the Centre to not forcibly repatriate any Myanmar refugee until their refugee claims have been assessed and to ensure humanitarian assistance to the fleeing refugees.

“As India has no law or mechanism to process the asylum applications, and the decisions on refugee claims are taken by the Government of India on security considerations, which are often in violations of India’s constitutional obligations, the NHRC ought to intervene to fulfil its obligations,” NTAT coordinator Suhas Chakma said.

Chin people from across the border have crossed over individually or in small groups at different points of the 404-km border between Myanmar and Mizoram. Personnel of the Assam Rifles, guarding the border have stopped many from crossing over, but at least 35 are said to have sneaked in apart from those who have taken refuge in the border districts of Champhai, Hnahthial and Serchhip.

A March 5 letter from the Deputy Commissioner of Myanmar’s Falam district to Maria C.T. Zuali, his counterpart in Mizoram’s Champhai district, confirmed that eight of the refugees were police personnel. The Falam officer sought their repatriation as a friendly gesture.

“The Myanmar refugees who entered India have the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Further, as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, India must not refoule the refugees in contravention of Article 3(1) of this convention,” Mr. Chakma said.

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