More than 270 members of the Kuki-Chin community from Bangladesh who entered Mizoram on November 20 are being referred to as “officially displaced persons” in State government records, as India does not have a law on refugees.
A senior Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) official told The Hindu that the issue was being discussed with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
According to the MHA, foreign nationals who enter the country without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants. A senior government official said that the group, including 25 infants and 60 women, approached a Border Security Force (BSF) patrol base on the Bangladesh-Mizoram border in the early hours of November 20 and were allowed to cross over. “They were without any belongings and were allowed to enter India on humanitarian grounds,” the official said.
The Christian community from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts shares close ethnic ties with people in Mizoram. The Mizoram government has approved the setting up of temporary shelters and other amenities for the community, who sought refuge in India following an action by the Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion against some insurgents belonging to the group. Another official said they are expecting more such refugees in the coming days.
The first official said that four schools have been turned into shelters for the refugees following the State government’s order that none of them will be deported or returned.
The refugees will be housed on the same lines as the shelter given to over 40,000 refugees from Myanmar who have entered Mizoram since a military coup in the neighbouring country in February 2021. The official said the “checks and balance” adopted for the Myanmarese refugees will also be put in place for the Bangladeshi refugees.
In 2021, the MHA asked the Chief Secretaries of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh to “take appropriate action as per law to check illegal influx from Myanmar into India.” The MHA had said that State Governments have no powers to grant “’refugee’ status to any foreigner” and added that India is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.
The issue of refugee influx from Myanmar was also discussed at the two-day 27th Conference of Director General of Police of the North East organised in Agartala on November 22-23 by the Intelligence Bureau and Tripura Police.
A statement by the Ministry said that the participants deliberated on issues ranging from insurgency, capacity building of police units to meet security challenges, disrupting drug trafficking networks, impact of developments in Myanmar and other border issues, and the security requirements of the Act East Policy of the Government of India.