Indian NGO moves NHRC to help shelter Myanmarese refugees

Indian NGO moves NHRC to help shelter Myanmarese refugees

Kolkata, March 9 (IANS) Indian NGO ‘National Campaign Against Torture’ (NCAT) on Tuesday filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), urging it to process the asylum/refugee claims of Myanmarese refugees who have fled following the coup d’etat in Myanmar on February 1, 2021 .

The NCAT appealed to the NHRC to send the Investigation Department of the NHRC 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.’

The NCAT asked the NHRC to direct the Government of India to not forcibly repatriate any Burmese refugee until their refugee claims have 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 fulfil its obligations,” UNCAT coordinator Suhas Chakma said in a statement.

He claimed that until 7 March this year , about 16 Myanmar nationals entered Mizoram in different batches and took shelter in Champhai, Hnahthial and Serchhip districts of Mizoram which share borders with Myanmar.

Four people, who entered the state on 28 February 2021, are currently taking refuge in Champhai town, while 8 people are being lodged at a community hall at Lungkawlh village in Serchhip district and 4 others are living with the locals in Cherhlun village in Hnahthial district near the Myanmar border.

The Assam Rifles who guard the Mizoram-Myanmar border stated that about 35 Myanmar nationals have already sneaked into Mizoram and are taking refuge, Mr Chakma claimed.

On 5 March 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 Burmese 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 the refugees in contravention of Article 3(1) of the UNCAT,” Suhas Chakma said.

“The 11 Myanmar’s police personnel who refused to obey orders to attack the peaceful pro-democracy activists face certain torture and possibly death sentence in case of refoulement to Myanmar by the Government of India,” he told this writer.

Burmese pro-democracy activists have meanwhile approached Indian diplomats in Myanmar with requests that the eight policemen now in Mizoram are not send back because they ‘ face certain death on return.’

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