Manipur: India state reverses order turning away Myanmar refugees

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India’s border state of Manipur has withdrawn an earlier order that told officials to “politely turn away” refugees crossing over from Myanmar.

The state home ministry, which had issued the first order, said its instructions had been “misconstrued”.

The earlier order was issued amid reports of refugees from Myanmar entering Manipur in India’s northeast.

Many of them are fleeing in the wake of a military coup last month that overthrew a democratic government.

On Tuesday, the home ministry issued a second order saying the state government was taking “all humanitarian steps” and “continues to provide all aid”, including treating any injured refugees from Myanmar, also called Burma.

While the first order, dated 26 March, had said anyone with “grievous injuries” could receive medical attention, it prohibited the setting up of camps that provide food or shelter. It also asked officials to stop any attempts to enrol refugees in India’s national biometric ID scheme, Aadhaar.

“People trying to enter/ seek refuge should be politely turned away,” the order said.

An agreement between the two countries allows Indians and Burmese to cross the border and stay up to 14 days. But the border has been closed since March last year due to Covid-19.

It’s hard to say how many refugees from Myanmar have entered India since the coup but some estimates put the number at 700.

The numbers are expected to increase as violence against anti-coup protesters continues.

Earlier this month, a group of police officers from Myanmar crossed into India. They told the BBC they fled to India after refusing to shoot protesters on the orders of the military.

On 1 February, security forces, led by Min Aung Hlaing and his generals, seized control of Myanmar. They detained Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won a recent general election by a landslide.

Protests against the coup have been brutally suppressed – more than 500 people have now been killed in the violence since 1 February, according to a monitoring group. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the true figure was probably higher.

More than a 100 people, including children, were killed on Saturday alone.


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