Chin refugees in New Delhi are largely choosing to undergo individual status determination interviews with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) instead of holding on to their refugee status for one more year as is advised, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).
Interviews with the UN refugee agency began on Tuesday. Salai Cung Dawt, who is in charge of CHRO’s New Delhi office, told Khonumthung News that 10 out of 11 Chin people said they would go ahead with the interviews after being consulted by UN officials. He said that they encouraged the refugees to take the next year to explore their options rather than undergoing the scrutiny of an interview.
“It’s not by force. They gave suggestions. There is nothing strange. It’s just a normal process,” Salai Cung Dawt said of the UN officials. “They also explained that if refugees fail to pass the interview, the UN registration card will expire before the end of 2019. They gave many suggestions to refugees to choose the first option [to keep their registration cards for the next year]. But most refugees chose Option II [the interview].”
Chin refugees’ UN registration cards will remain valid until December 31, 2019, following a determination that people from Chin State will no longer be granted refugee status. Those who believe they still need UN protection can choose to undergo an interview by UNHCR officials, who will make a determination on their status within two months.
Depending on the results of the interview, the UNHCR will decide whether those people can continue to live in the host country, leave for a third country or be deported back to Burma. Salai Cung Dawt explained that the fear of deportation encourages people to choose the interview.
He added that many people have already applied for resettlement in Australia and are awaiting official permission.
“Actually, they are afraid to go back home to Burma. They feel there is no safe situation in Burma,” Salai Cung Dawt said. “If we want to go back home, we must report to the UN about it. Then the UN will arrange for our return. Currently, there is no MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] between the Burmese government and the UN. The situation in Burma is operating like how it was under military regime”
However, choosing to go ahead with the interview is perceived as “challenging the UN,” the CHRO in-charge said.
“According to [the UN officials], 80 percent of individual cases do not pass the interview. That is why they suggest refugees to choose the first option, because they can still apply to go to Australia with a private sponsor. If refugees choose Option II and do not pass the interview, the UN registration card will expire and refugees won’t get UNHCR protection,” Salai Cung Dawt said, adding that they say “Option I is better for Chin refugees.”