Citing deteriorating security in southern Chin State, representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on March 14 that the international community would still need to offer protections to ethnic Chin refugees.
In June of last year, the UNHCR had announced that the social, political and security situation in Chin State had sufficiently improved and that refugees from the region would no longer be recognized as such.
Those in Malaysia and India were told they could return to Burma or undergo individual interviews reevaluating their refugee status.
The move was widely protested by members of the Chin community, who insisted that a return to Burma would be premature amid ongoing instability.
However, last Thursday’s statement acknowledged continued conflict in Chin State, which has manifested as fighting between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army.
Volker Turk, the assistant high commissioner for protection within the UNHCR, said: “We officially recognize that Chin refugees still need the international community’s protection, because the security situation is getting worse in southern Chin state.”
According to the UNHCR’s report, there are at least 18,000 Chin refugees registered with their agency, 15,000 of whom are in Malaysia, with the others in India, Thailand and Nepal.
The review process introduced last year has since stopped, with the UNHCR deciding to maintain refugee protection and status for the community.
The UNHCR maintains it will continue to manage the safe and voluntary return of Chin refugees to Burma if they wish to go back.