CHRO’s Presentation at the US State Department
Bureau for Population, Migration and Refugee
12 October 2004
Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. We are very grateful for the Bureau’s longstanding and active involvement in helping Burmese refugees displaced by civil war and political repression in Burma. The recent resettlement of Burmese refugees in Thailand to the United States helped ameliorate the suffering of hundreds of displaced people who encountered enormous daily difficulties in their lives.
We are here today to bring to your attention our continuing concerns about the situations of Burmese refugees in India.
The conditions of more than 50,000 Burmese refugees in India have not improved since we last brought up the issue to your attention last year. In many respects, conditions have worsened steadily for Burmese refugees in India over the last year.
Continuing human rights violations inside Burma, especially in Chin State, have triggered a steady movement of refugees into India. There is increasing incidents of forced labor activities inside Chin State, especially along the areas where a transnational highway between Burma and India are being constructed. With new refugees crossing into India each day, conditions are not better for those seeking shelter in India.
In Mizoram State of India, which borders Chin State of Burma, intolerance against Chin refugees has heightened, and for the past several months there has been a massive campaign to evict and deport Burmese Chin refugees. This campaign resulted in the forced return of over 6,000 Chin refugees to Burma. Many were either forced to go into hiding in the jungles to or to travel to New Delhi in order to seek protection from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. But for many of these people, life is no better in New Delhi.
There are about 1,500 Burmese refugees living in New Delhi and only about half of them are recognized as refugees by UNHCR. Last year UNHCR started implementing a policy to phase out Subsistence Allowance that has been provided to Burmese refugees in what it said was due to budget shortage and to encourage self-reliance for Burmese refugees in New Delhi. As of now, much of the 30$ monthly allowance provided to each individual refugee has been phased out. As a result, people are increasingly finding themselves unable to meet their daily needs. Local landlords are evicting refugee tenants because they can no longer afford to pay their rent.
The termination of Subsistence Allowance has not helped Burmese refugees in their ability to become self-reliant. But instead, it has actually created more problems in their efforts to cope with daily hardships they face in trying to survive in India. While Burmese refugees do have Residential Permits from the Indian government they are not authorized to work there, making it both impossible and illegal for them to work in order to become self-reliant.
Termination of assistance has created greater social problems among refugees in a way that more people are resorting to scavenge discarded vegetables in local markets to meet their daily needs for survival. Women and children are no exception. Just during the last two to three months, 19 Burmese refugee women were reported to have been sexually molested and harassed by local Indian men while picking up discarded vegetables in the neighborhood night market. Lack of adequate support has actually increased the vulnerability of Burmese refugees in New Delhi and has made it more difficult for them to integrate into the local community.
In conclusion, the security and humanitarian conditions of Burmese refugees in India are worsening. We strongly believe that Burmese refugees in India, both in New Delhi and Mizoram, deserve special attention and urgent intervention by the United States. Thank you for your support.
Chin Human Rights Organization