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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

MHA cautions Northeast states on taking Myanmar refugees

The decision was taken in the wake of scores of police officials, other people having entered India through borders in Mizoram and Manipur, claiming they were facing persecution in Myanmar after the military junta seized power in a coup.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: March 12, 2021 8:16:42 pm
Myanmar protests, Myanmar coupDemonstrators stage a protest against the military coup in front of riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Myanmar's biggest city Wednesday, in one of largest protests yet of a coup, despite warnings from a U.N. human rights expert that recent troop movements could indicate the military was planning a violent crackdown. (AP Photo)

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Friday communicated to four Northeast states bordering Myanmar to maintain strict vigil at the international borders and not allow anyone to enter India. Sources said the states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have been told to make exceptions to receiving those fleeing Myanmar only in cases where it appears absolutely essential on humanitarian grounds.

“The states have been spoken to and a written communication was also sent earlier addressed to chief secretaries of the concerned states in this regard. While we are seized of the situation unfolding in Myanmar, we cannot allow all and sundry to enter the country. The states have been advised to deal with the issue on case to case basis,” a home ministry official said.

The decision has been taken in the wake of scores of police officials and other people having entered India through international borders in Mizoram and Manipur, claiming they were facing persecution in Myanmar after the military junta took over the reins of power last month in a coup.

In a letter shot off to chief secretaries of the four states on Wednesday, the ministry had said, “It has been reported that illegal influx from Myanmar has started. Attention is invited to MHA letter… (dated) 08.08.2017 addressed to Chief Secretaries of all State Governments and Union Territory (UT) Administrations wherein instructions were issued to sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in ‘identifying the illegal migrants’ and initiate the deportation processes expeditiously and without delay.”

It also said in 2018 MHA had advised states restrict these illegal immigrants to specific locations, capture their biometric details, cancel any fake Indian passport and initiate legal proceedings.

“Further, it is reiterated that State Governments and UT Administrations have no powers 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 Wednesday letter said.

“In view of above, you are requested to take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India,” the letter said.

Anticipating influx from Myanmar, the ministry had on February 25 written to chief secretaries of the four states as also the border guarding forces and the Assam Rifles “to stay alert and take appropriate action to prevent a possible influx into Indian territory.”

Sources said some of the states in North East have cultural ties with some border areas of Myanmar and many people have family relations as well. This, they said, had resulted in some states taking a sympathetic view of those fleeing Myanmar and giving them shelter.

“However, if people come in large numbers, it could create a crisis here itself. So utmost caution needs to be exercised given the unfolding situation in Myanmar,” the official said.

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