MHA asks Manipur to gather biometrics of 'illegal migrants' by March 2024

An official of Manipur's home department said the state government has already begun the biometric process for the Myanmarese staying in Manipur

File photo of an Indian Army patrol in Manipur (photo: Getty Images)
File photo of an Indian Army patrol in Manipur (photo: Getty Images)


The Union home ministry (MHA) has asked the Manipur government to complete the process of capturing biographic and biometric details of illegal migrants, mostly Myanmar nationals, in the state by March next year, officials said in Imphal on Friday.

An official of Manipur's home department said the state government has already begun the biometric process for the Myanmarese staying in Manipur, though the state government has recently requested the MHA to extend the time by a year.

In a letter to Manipur chief secretary Vineet Joshi, MHA director (foreigners) Surender Kumar said the ministry has considered the request of the Manipur government. “…. it has been decided to extend the time period till March 31, 2024. Accordingly, the state government of Manipur is requested to take appropriate necessary action to complete the exercise within the revised time period,” said the MHA letter, accessed by IANS.

The Manipur government has started collecting the biographic and biometric details from July and a team from the National Crime Records Bureau, deputed by the MHA, assisted the state government at the Foreigners' Detention Centre at Sajiwa in Imphal East district.

In July, around 720 more Myanmar nationals, including 301 children and 208 women, had entered Manipur's Chandel district following the ongoing clashes between the army and civil forces in the neighbouring country.

The Myanmar nationals are now staying in seven villages — Lajang, Bonse, New Samtal, New Lajang, Yangnomphai, Yangnomphai Saw Mill, and Aivomjang — along the India-Myanmar border in Chandel.

Besides these, several thousand Myanmar nationals took shelter in Manipur after the military coup in that country in February 2021. Thousands of Myanmarese also fled to Mizoram with around 35,000 men, women and children now living in the state.

The Mizoram government, church bodies, and various NGOs including Young Mizo Association (YMA) are providing relief and shelter to the Myanmar nationals. The MHA had earlier asked the Manipur and Mizoram governments to gather biographic and biometric details of "illegal migrants" in the two states and complete the process by September this year.

Both the northeastern states had agreed to undertake collection of biometrics and biographic data of Myanmar nationals. However, the Mizoram state cabinet in a meeting on 27 September decided not to proceed with the proposed collection.

A Mizoram home department official said the state government took up the matter with the MHA, but the Centre insisted that it carry on the process. The official told IANS, “The Election Commission is also likely to announce the schedule for Mizoram Assembly polls soon and government officials will be very busy making preparations for the elections.”

Elections to the 40-member Mizoram assembly are likely to be held in November or December this year. Justifying the cabinet decision, Mizoram information and public relations minister Lalruatkima said collection of biometric details of the Myanmar nationals would be "discriminatory" as the Myanmarese and Mizos have the same blood relations, similar ethnicity, language, and customs.

“The MNF (Mizo National Front) government provided relief and shelter to Myanmar refugees on humanitarian grounds. Thousands of refugee students were enrolled in Mizoram schools and were being provided free textbooks, uniforms and mid-day meals like the other students belonging to the state,” the minister told the media in state capital Aizawl.

The Mizoram government has, on a number of occasions, urged the Central government to provide funds and accord refugee status to Myanmar nationals taking shelter in the state.

Citing international protocols and conventions, the MHA told northeastern states that nationals from neighbouring countries cannot be given refugee status as India is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees and the protocol.

Four northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Manipur (398 km), Nagaland (215 km) and Mizoram (510 km) — share a 1,643-km unfenced border with Myanmar.

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