Guwahati: Assam Rifles has intensified vigil on the Indo-Myanmar border even as Home Ministry (MHA) directed border states to take action to “check influx from Myanmar”. 

The MHA communication asked the state authorities to refer to past instructions to promptly identify “illegal migrants” and take steps to deport them. The Ministry’s letter reiterated that states have no powers to grant refugee status to any foreigner. 

Amid violence and crackdown on anti-military coup protestors, the number of migrants from Myanmar including police personnel seeking shelter in Mizoram has gone up to at least 148, according to a security source in the state. 

“We have intensified patrolling at all possible crossing points on the International border after clear instructions from the Home Ministry (MHA) to not allow any migrants to cross,” a source in the Assam Rifles which is deployed on the Indo-Myanmar border told EastMojo. 

North East Division of the MHA wrote to chief secretaries of Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur on March 10 mentioning the possibility of a “large scale illegal influx into Indian territory” through the Indo-Myanmar border. 

The letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by EastMojo referred to an earlier February 25 advisory by the Home Ministry to states and Assam Rifles “to stay alert and take appropriate action to prevent a possible influx into Indian territory.” 

The Assam Rifles source said that an estimated 148 Myanmar citizens, including 89 who claim to be from the police or the fire services, have been traced so far in several Mizoram districts. 

The March 10 MHA letter notes how the “illegal influx has started.” It mentions an earlier letter on August 8, 2017, wherein “instructions were issued to sensitize all law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking prompt steps in identifying the illegal migrants and initiate the deportation processes expeditiously and without any delay.”

The MHA communication to state chief secretaries and the Assam Rifles also refers to instructions by Ministry’s Foreigners Division to all states on February 28, 2018, advising them to “sensitize law enforcement and intelligence agencies for taking appropriate prompt steps for identifying illegal migrants, their restriction to specific locations as per provisions of law, capturing their biographic and biometric particulars, cancellation of fake Indian documents and legal proceedings including initiation of deportation proceedings as per provisions of law.” 

The March 10 MHA letter reiterated that the “state governments and UT administrations have no powers to grant ‘refugee’ status to any foreigner and India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.”

This comes amid confusion in Mizoram after the state government issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on February 27 for, “(the) facilitation of refugees & migrants from Myanmar.” It was later revoked on March 6. 

The SOP, as per a copy reviewed by EastMojo, called for proper identification and collection of details of all those entering Mizoram from Myanmar. It said only those persons “whose life is in immediate and imminent threat due to political and organisational affiliations in connection with the political development shall be facilitated and treated as refugees.” The SOP left it to the district authorities to exercise their discretion in matters of those migrants who did not fall in this category.

The local community and Mizoram state government have been sympathetic to the migrants who have arrived in the state fleeing the military crackdown even as the state officials rued lack of clear directions from the Centre. 

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh also told EastMojo earlier this week that the state would provide all help to the civilians who might arrive from Myanmar.

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