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October 20, 2006 – The Chin Human Rights Organisation today welcomed the decision of the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to allow Burmese refugees into the United States even if they have supported rebels fighting against the Burmese government.

Rice exercised her discretionary exemption authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act, to allow Chin refugees to resettle in the United States even if they have provided “material support” to the Chin National Front or Chin National Army.

“This is a welcome message,” said Victor Biak Lian, a member of the board of directors of the CHRO, adding that the waiver would generate new hope to the many vulnerable Chin refugees, who have been on-hold for resettlement to the United States .

Chin refugees from Burma have fled mainly to Malaysia , Thailand , and India in order to escape the random human rights violation of the junta.

Under the exemption order, those who are accepted “must meet all other eligibility requirements for resettlement — including that they pose no danger to the safety and security of the United States ,” said the announcement of the US state department on Thursday.

“Exercising the exemption authority allows the United States to resume significant processing of the thousands of extremely vulnerable ethnic Chin refugees living in Malaysia and elsewhere,” said the announcement.

Under the USA Patriot Act of 2001 and the REAL ID Act of 2005, persons including refugees and asylum seekers who have provided support of any kind including material support to “terrorist organizations” and people engaged in “terrorist activities” are barred from entering US territory.

However, rights advocates, campaigners and critics have severely criticized the law, which was principally aimed to protect US citizens from terrorism, saying it has negatively impacted refugees and asylum seekers whose very reason of becoming refugees and asylum seekers is terrorism.

The CHRO, which has been advocating and lobbying the US government to waive the US law for Chin asylum seekers, in their statement released earlier this year admitted that a majority of Chin asylum seekers and refugees have provided some form of support at some point in their lives to the Chin National Front.

However, both the CNF and CNA, which have been waging a low-level rebellion against the Burmese military junta since 1988, are not on the State Department’s list of international terrorist organizations.
“This move (exemption order) shows that the US understands that Burmese pro-democracy organisations (both armed and non-violent groups) are not terrorist
groups as claimed by the Burmese junta,” said Victor Biak Lian.

The decision will now allow the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve eligible Chin refugees for admission to the United States .

The Burmese junta, however, claimed that there are no Burmese refugees and the so-called refugees are families and relatives of terrorists, who the junta term as ‘destructive elements’ wishing to create mayhem and instability inside the country.

The Secretary of State has twice previously exercised this same inapplicability authority with respect to Karen refugees in camps in Thailand who were found otherwise eligible except for having provided material support to the Karen National Union or the Karen
National Liberation Army.

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