Hundreds in New Delhi Protest UNHCR’s Push for Chin Refugee Return

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By Moe Kyaw – More than 300 Chin refugees held a demonstration in front the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi, India on Wednesday.

The protesters—who were present from 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.—were demanding a change to the UNHCR’s decision on Chin refugee affairs. The UN ruled last June that it would no longer grant refugee status or resettlement rights to those from Chin State, after the area was declared to no longer be an active conflict zone.

Chin organizations based in New Delhi released a statement asking the UN to extend the expiration date of refugee registration cards for members of the Chin community if they have undergone an interview with officials. Currently the cards can only be extended through a second such interview.

The organizations also urged the UNHCR to publicly state that Chin refugees still need protection from the international community.

Salai Cung Dawt, of the Chin Human Rights Organization in New Delhi, told Khonumthung News that they had reported news of the demonstration to the police in advance.

“Police came and asked about the demonstration. We showed our statement and explained why were holding a demonstration. There was no problem,” he said, adding that a UN officer received the statement as well, but that the agency has yet to respond.

If the UNHCR does not issue a response, Chin refugees have said that they will continue protesting until Friday, and possibly into next week.  

Members of the Chin community in New Delhi say that they are afraid to return to Burma or to Chin State, and have highlighted concerns about security, education, and their ability to make a living in their homeland. In the statement delivered to the UNHCR, the Chin organizations behind the demonstration pointed to recent intensified clashes between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army in Paletwa Township as evidence of continued conflict in Chin State They also criticized the Burmese government’s lack of recognition of foreign school certificates, limiting opportunities for educated refugees returning to Burma. There remains no government or UN social relief programs for returning Chin refugees in the country, they added, in their explanation of why they feel the conditions for return have not been met.

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