India begins deporting first group of Myanmar refugees

March 9, 2024 3:32 pm

[Source: Reuters]

India began deporting the first group of Myanmar refugees who sought shelter there after a military coup in 2021.

They plans to send back more in the coming days, weeks after saying it would end a visa-free border policy with Myanmar.

Thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops from Myanmar have fled to Indian states, where communities between the two countries share ethnic and familial ties, which has worried New Delhi because of the risk of communal tensions spreading to India.

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“First batch of Myanmar nationals who entered India illegally deported today,” N. Biren Singh, the chief minister of northeastern Manipur state that borders Myanmar, said in a post on messaging platform X.

Manipur planned to send back at least 77 refugees starting from Friday, according to a state government document seen by Reuters. The state has been roiled by sporadic violence that has killed nearly 200 people so far since ethnic clashes broke out in May last year.

The first group of refugees arrived in the Indian border town of Moreh and would likely be handed over on Saturday, an Indian security official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Singh shared a video clip on X showing some women refugees being brought out of security vans and taken into an airport.

The U.S. State Department is “concerned by reports that recent deportations from India to Burma included refugees and asylum seekers,” a spokesperson said on Saturday. The State Department reiterated calls by U.N. human rights organizations “urging Burma’s neighbors to offer refuge and protection to all those fleeing violence and persecution.”

New Delhi has not signed the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, which spells out refugees’ rights and states’ responsibilities to protect them, nor does it have its own laws protecting refugees.

Singh wrote in his post that the country gave “shelter & aid to those fleeing the crisis in Myanmar on humanitarian grounds with a systematic approach”.

India last month said it would end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with Myanmar for their border citizens for reasons including national security, days after the interior minister announced fencing of the 1,643-km (1,020 mile) border with Myanmar.