With the fresh influx of refugees from Myanmar, the number of people taking shelter in Mizoram after the military coup hit the neighbouring country has gone up to around 11,000, officials said on Saturday.
District administrations and police officials said that around 150 to 160 people, including women and children, took shelter in Mizoram’s Champhai, Lawngtlai and Hnahthial districts bordering Myanmar during the past few days.
Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana told the media here that if the attacks and counter-attacks by the Myanmar military and the opposition forces continue, more people are likely come into Mizoram for shelter.
Most of the refugees from Myanmar have been provided makeshift shelters by various local NGOs, including the Young Mizo Association which also provided them food, medicines and other basic necessities on humanitarian ground, while several others are living with their relatives.
The officials said that the district administrations are unable to help the immigrants formally as they are yet to be granted refugee status by the government or international agencies.
According to the media and intelligence reports, the fresh refugee influx occurred in Mizoram as the Burmese government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), called for a countrywide uprising earlier this week and clashed with the military soldiers who undertook massive operations against the resistance forces.
Sounds of fierce gunfights and bursting shells and other firearms between the cadres of anti-coup NUG and the Myanmar army could be heard from the villages bordering Myanmar.
According to the officials of the Crime Investigation Department (CID), which maintains the data of Myanmarese refugees, around 11,000 refugees, including about 20 legislators, have taken shelter in Mizoram’s 11 districts since March this year.
The Champhai district along the Bharat-Myanmar border is currently sheltering 4,550 refugees, the highest, followed by Aizawl district where 1,700 refugees have taken shelter.
A majority of those who have taken shelter in the bordering state belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share the same ancestry, ethnicity and culture as the Mizos of Mizoram.
Six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – share 510 km unfenced borders with Myanmar.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga had earlier urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide asylum, food and shelter to the refugees who arrived in the state since the military coup in Myanmar on February 1.
Referring to the Union Home Ministry’s advisory to the four northeastern states bordering Myanmar and also to the Assam Rifles and the BSF for taking action to prevent illegal influx from Myanmar into Bharat, Zoramthanga had said, “This is not acceptable to Mizoram.”
A Mizoram government delegation had already met the Vice President, Union Minister of State for Home and Home Secretary in Delhi to persuade them to impress upon the Centre not to forcefully push back the Myanmar nationals sheltered in Mizoram.
As per the MHA advisory, the state governments and UT administrations have no power to grant “refugee” status to any foreigner, and Bharat is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
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.
Meanwhile, the Mizoram government has decided to enrol children of Myanmarese refugees into the state government schools.
Last week, Mizoram’s School Education Director James Lalrinchhana, referring to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act-2009), had asked all the district and sub-divisional education officials that children aged between 6 and 14 years belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to schools in a class appropriate to his or her age for completing elementary education.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to Hindu-Post style-guide.)
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