Mizoram agrees to record biometric details of 34,000 Myanmar refugees, awaits MHA directions

IANS Photo

IANS Photo

Aizawl/Imphal, June 19 (IANS): The Mizoram government has agreed to record biometric details of around 34,000 Myanmar refugees sheltered in the northeastern state for over three years, but is waiting for the necessary instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), officials said in Aizawl on Wednesday.

A senior Mizoram Home Department official said that a new biometric enrollment portal has already been prepared by the department but the process would start after getting the detailed directions from the MHA.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma recently said that the state government in principle decided to record biometric details of the Myanmar refugees and a portal was ready for collecting this data.

After the military junta seized power in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, around 34,000 people including women, elderly people and children, from the neighbouring country took shelter in 11 districts of Mizoram. At least 10,550 Myanmarese are staying in 111 relief camps in six districts while 9,300 others live in relatives or friends’ houses as well as in rented accommodation, a Home Department official told IANS.

Similarly, at least 8,000 Myanmarese have taken shelter in neighbouring Manipur’s Tengnoupal, Chandel, Churachandpur, and Kamjong districts and the state government has already recorded the biometric details of the majority of the refugees.

A Manipur Home Department official said that the state government, in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and central security forces, has so far deported 115 Myanmar nationals, including women and children, in three phases since March 8.

The Myanmar immigrants have been deported through the Moreh border in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district.

Mizoram and Manipur have 518 km and 400 km of unfenced borders, respectively, with Myanmar.

The MHA earlier in 2022 asked both the Manipur and Mizoram governments to undertake the recording of biometric and biographic data of all the Myanmar refugees.

Though the BJP-led government in Manipur immediately started the process, the then Mizoram government, led by the Mizo National Front (MNF), refused, claiming that the Myanmarese are "brothers and sisters of Mizos and such an initiative would discriminate against them". After the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) led by Lalduhoma came to power, defeating the MNF, in the November 7, 2023 Assembly elections, the new state government, after initial hesitation, in principle, agreed to start the process of collecting the data.

The Manipur government was keen to repatriate the Myanmar refugees but the Mizoram government urged the Center to provide financial assistance to provide them relief and accord the “refugee” status to Myanmarese.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said that although India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has given shelter and aid to those fleeing the crisis in Myanmar on humanitarian grounds.