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Nearly 600 more Myanmar refugees reach Mizoram

Around 600 Myanmar nationals from the border Varang village recently took shelter in Mizoram following air strikes near the border by the military junta, according to a senior official in Mizoram government who did not want to be identified. “Myanmar’s army attacked a post of the 61st company of light infantry regiment at Varang village last month. Following air strikes, villagers of Varang used boats to reach Mizoram, ferrying whatever they could carry. Around 619 Myanmarese who fled Varang have taken shelter in Mizoram. Since September 1, there are 178 people in Laitlang, 121 in Zochachhuah, 252 in Hmawngbuchhuah and 68 in New Model village,” the official told ET.

There are already around 31,000 Myanmar nationals, including 11,798 children and 10,047 women, in different districts of Mizoram. Fourteen Myanmar lawmakers too are among the refugees. Northeastern states face an influx of Myanmar nationals after the junta returned to power.

Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga had urged the Centre to provide asylum to refugees. He also opposed the Centre’s order to security forces to stop Myanmar citizens from entering the state and for deportation of refugees. In April, the Mizoram government started issuing certificates to Myanmar refugees despite the Union home ministry clarification that states had no power to grant refugee status to foreigners. MHA had also said that India was not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 or its 1967 protocol.

Early last year, MHA had written to chief secretaries of Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and the director general of Assam Rifles to warn them about a probable largescale influx of refugees into India following the change in political situation in Myanmar. MHA had asked the states and the security forces to take ‘appropriate action’ to prevent possible influx into India. However, despite the advisory the refugees kept flowing in. One of the reasons is the 1,643-km unfenced border between the two nations with free movement possible within 16 km on both sides.

Also, the majority of those who have reached Mizoram belong to the Chin community, also known as the Zo community, who share ancestry, ethnicity and culture with the Mizos of Mizoram. Myanmar has been under Emergency after the military seized power.

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