Over 700 Myanmar refugees seeking shelter in Mizoram, numbers doubled in a week

The number of people fleeing Myanmar facing persecution after the military coup has jumped from 300 to 733 now.

The number of people fleeing Myanmar facing persecution after the military coup and seeking refuge in India has doubled over the last week.

Earlier, the figure was around 300 but it has jumped to 733 now, official data shows.

While the total number of refugees taking shelter in Mizoram bordering the Chin state of Myanmar stands at 642, there are 91 other people who have been put in the “unconfirmed” category, according to the official report of the state government.

Influx in 9 districts

The maximum numbers are reported from Champhai district where 324 people are staying and there are another 91 not accounted for who have entered recently.

The next most affected district is Siaha with 144 people.

Other districts where people from the neighbouring country are taking shelter are Hnahthial (83), Lawngtalai (55) Serchhip (15), Aizawl (14), Saitual (3), Kolasib (2) and Lunglei (2).

Most of the refugees are policemen and their families and even some army personnel who reportedly refused to shoot the protesters opposing the military rule, sources said.

Those who managed to escape fear for their lives and don’t want to return under current circumstances.

Most are staying in community halls near the borders that are meant to facilitate accommodation under the Free Movement Regime (FMR) arrangement while some others have taken shelter with relatives away from the border areas.

The two countries have an arrangement called the Free Movement Regime that allows people to travel up to 16km on either side of the borders and stay up to 14 days. But this was suspended in March last year after the Covid outbreak, officials said.

“Most of them who have come are restricted to the FMR zones near the borders,” said a senior official tracking development.

The Myanmar military in a coup had overthrown the democratically elected government on February 1.

India and Myanmar share 1,643km border and people on either side have familial ties due to ethnic affiliations. Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are the Indian states that share borders with Myanmar but the influx after the coup has been limited to Mizoram that share a 510km border with Myanmar.

The influx of these people is a sensitive issue in the state as the population on either side of the border have ethnic affiliations.

Centre-state differ over refugees

The state government and the Centre are not on the same page on the subject.

After a series of official exchanges between the Centre and Mizoram government showed differing views over the influx of refugees from Myanmar following the military coup, Chief Minister Zoramthanga wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating India cannot turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis.

Earlier, the Mizoram government made arrangements to welcome those persecuted and giving shelter to those crossing the border after the coup, however, New Delhi stated that no refugees should be allowed to stay.

Sources said to avoid any conflict, the border guarding forces and the police are not coming in direct contact with the refugees but have stepped up vigil to check influx.

The Union home ministry issued an advisory on February 25 to the chief secretaries of Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and also to the Border Guarding Force along the Indo-Myanmar border (Assam Rifles) to stay alert and take appropriate action to prevent a possible influx into the territory.

Source: India Today


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