India’s Rights Body NHRC Urged To Process Refugee Claims Of Myanmar Nationals

The New Delhi-based National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) has urged India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to process asylum/refugee claims filed by Myanmar nationals who fled the country in the wake of the February 1 military coup in the country.

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As of March 7, 2021, 16 Myanmar nationals entered Mizoram in India’s Northeast on different batches and are currently taking refuge in Champhai, Hnahthial and Serchhip districts of Mizoram which shares borders with the Southeast Asian nation, NCAT said in a press statement. NCAT is a platform for NGOs committed to stamping out torture worldwide.

NCAT has filed a plea with the NHRC, a statutory body for the protection and promotion of human rights, urging it to send its Investigation Department to Mizoram to interview each of the refugees and determine their refugee status in conformity with national law and India’s obligations under international law.

It also requested NHRC to direct the Government of India to not forcibly repatriate any Myanmar national until his/her refugee claim has been assessed by the NHRC and further to extend humanitarian assistance to the fleeing refugees.

“As India has no law or mechanism to process the asylum applications and the decisions on refugee claims are taken by the Government of India on security considerations, which are often in violations of India’s constitutional obligations, the NHRC ought to intervene to fulfill its obligations,” said Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of NCAT.

NCAT said, out of the 16 Myanmar nationals, four had entered Mizoram on February 28, 2021, and are currently taking refuge in Champhai town; eight people are being lodged at a community hall at Lungkawlh village in Serchhip district and four others are living with the locals in Cherhlun village in Hnahthial district near the Myanmar border.

Indian paramilitary force, the Assam Rifles, which guards the Mizoram-Myanmar border, stated that about 35 Myanmar nationals have already sneaked into Mizoram and are taking refuge.

On March 5, 2021, the Deputy Commissioner of Myanmar’s Falam district wrote to his counterpart in Mizoram’s Champhai district, Maria CT. Zuali, asking the Mizoram government to hand over eight police personnel to the Myanmar government as a friendly gesture, the statement read.

“The Burmese (Myanmarese) refugees who have entered into India have the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Further, as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), India must not refoule (repatriate) the refugees in contravention of Article 3(1) of the UNCAT,” added Chakma.

“The 11 Myanmar police personnel who refused to obey orders to crack down on the peaceful pro-democracy activists face certain torture and possibly death sentence in case of refoulement to Myanmar by the Government of India,” he said.

Earlier, a Reuters report claimed that at least 30 Myanmar police and their family members came across the border seeking refuge.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s military regime has continued what is seen as the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, with dozens killed since the February 1 takeover of power.

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