Imphal: The Manipur High Court on Monday granted the petition seeking safe passage of the seven Myanmar nationals to New Delhi and sought protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The judgment order, issued by Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar and Justice Lanusungkum Jamir, stated that it is just and proper to extend protection under Article 21 of the Constitution to these seven Myanmarese persons and grant them safe passage to New Delhi to enable them to avail suitable protection from the UNHCR.

The seven Myanmar citizens, including three journalists, fled their country after the military coup on February 2021 and took shelter at Moreh in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district.

In a petition filed by human rights advocate Nandita Haksar, who appears as a party-in-person on behalf of the seven Myanmar citizens, stated that after a military coup in neighboring Myanmar during February 2021, the military junta banned Mizzima, an established Myanmarese media and news service, and arrested or detained several of its journalists.

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They fled their country fearing prosecution and physical danger after the coup and the violence that broke out thereafter. They entered India and took shelter at Moreh in Tengnoupal district, said the petitioner.

The seven Myanmar refugees included three journalists and their families, who were hiding at Moreh until they were brought to Imphal as per an order of the High Court on April 20.

Though they entered India illegally without proper requisite travel documents, the court neither pronounced them as ‘migrants’ nor ‘refugees’ and stated that “the category to which these seven Myanmarese persons belong is perhaps clearly demonstrable from the conditions that compelled them to flee Myanmar and illegally enter India.”

The court further stated that the seven Myanmarese individuals in question are not ‘migrants’, as normally understood, but are ‘asylum seekers’.

“They did not enter our country with the clear-cut and deliberate intention of breaking and violating our domestic laws. They fled the country of their origin under imminent threat to their lives and liberty. They aspire for relief under International Conventions that were put in place to offer protection and rehabilitation to refugees/asylum seekers,” stated the court judgment.

In such a situation, insisting that they first answer for admitted violations of our domestic laws, as a condition precedent for seeking ‘refugee’ status, would be palpably inhuman, it added.

According to the HC judgment, some of them are in possession of their passports, but in any event, their details and particulars have been noted by the Immigration Authorities of India.

The court directed the FRRO at Imphal Airport to immediately provide them with temporary identification cards to enable them to travel to New Delhi by air, in case such identity proofs are required.

The State and Central Governments shall facilitate their travel to New Delhi and shall not cause any obstruction, the judgment said.

The petitioner states that she will make the required arrangements for the purchase of their air tickets and would also arrange for their stay at New Delhi, pending consideration of their claims for ‘refugee’ status by the UNHCR. This assurance is taken on record, it said.

Further, the petitioner shall ensure that these seven persons approach the Officer-in-Charge of the Parliament Street Police Station or the jurisdictional Police Station at New Delhi to register their names, local addresses and whereabouts, pending consideration of their claims.

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