Chin refugees in India need international support

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FRIDAY, 02 MARCH 2012

An estimated 100,000 Chin refugees from Burma now living in Mizoram State, India, need immediate humanitarian attention, according to a report to be released on March 6 in Washington, D.C.

The report calls on the central government of India and Mizoram State to protect the refugees and offer necessary humanitarian assistance, in cooperation with the world community.

The 134-page report documents the protection and humanitarian challenges that the people of Chin State, Burma, face as they seek refuge in neighboring Mizoram State, India. The Chin seeking refuge make up almost 10 percent of Mizoram’s population, which is 95 per cent Christian. The Chins in Mizoram have been “out of sight and out of mind for the international community because of long standing travel restrictions to the region and because UNHCR has had no access to Mizoram,” the report said. The report’s sponsors include Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Women’s Refugee Commission, and World Relief.

“They have no status or protection under the law and many suffer chronic economic insecurity, lacking adequate and stable shelter, food security, health, and education,” the report said. “Mizoram is burdened, too, by the large forced migration of Chin people. Addressing the Chin people’s protection and humanitarian needs and reducing Mizoram’s burden should be part of the larger discussion about Burma.”

The Chins’ forced migration from Burma has occurred continuously since the Burmese military took over in a military coup in 1962 and most heavily since the crackdown in 1988 against the pro-democracy movement in Burma.

The abuses in Chin State, Burma, have included, among others, forced labor, torture, and religious persecution, the report said.

“There has been a lot of attention on the possible political openings within Burma,” said Dan Kosten, the chair of Refugee Council, USA, a coalition of U.S.-based refugee resettlement agencies and human rights groups concerned about refugees. “We urge that attention also be paid to the refugee protection crises for ethnic and religious minority groups like the Chins who have been forced to flee from Burma. This report describes why the Chins fled and what challenges they and their host community have as they seek refuge in Mizoram State, India.”

“We are cautiously optimistic about Burma’s move toward democracy,” said Joel Charny, the vice president for Humanitarian Policy and Practice of InterAction, the largest coalition of U.S. based international, nongovernmental, humanitarian aid and development organizations. “But whatever long-term change comes to Burma, there are immediate protection and humanitarian crises for minority ethnic groups from Burma such as the 100,000 Chins in Mizoram State, India.”

The report also called upon the European Union, the United States, and other concerned countries, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nongovernmental organizations, faith based groups, and the international community to partner with India and Mizoram State to protect the Chins and to reduce the humanitarian burden on Mizoram State and the host country of India.

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