The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) said it was deeply concerned about UNHCR’s recent decision to implement a policy to end refugee status of Chin refugees from Myanmar that would affect 30,140 Chin refugees in Malaysia and 3,000 in India.
“This change, if implemented, may result in many people being unfairly stripped of their refugee status and potentially returned to a country where their life is in danger,” it said in a statement dated Tuesday (Sept 4).
It said that while the NLD-led government had taken some positive steps towards instituting peace across the country, substantive change has still not materialised for Myanmar’s numerous ethnic minorities.
“Though there have been recent improvements in the situation in some parts of Myanmar, there has been no fundamental change in the country as a whole to merit cessation of refugee status, particularly for ethnic and religious minority populations,” it said.
In addition, APRRN also made several recommendations to UNHCR, including suspending the withdrawal of UNHCR refugee cards; ensuring that Chin refugees, and all other refugee populations are not effectively forced to return against their will; and to work with host countries and Myanmar to genuinely work together to create a situation in Chin state whereby refugees can return in safety and dignity.
UNHCR had previously said that Chin refugees do not need their protection anymore, as the situation in Chin state is now stable and secure.
The Chin, who are the second largest refugee group in Malaysia, were told by the UNHCR on June 13 that the agency decided to begin the process of ending refugee status for them, beginning August.
From August, Chin refugees approaching the UN agency would have their cards extended until December 2019 without the need for an interview.
But as of Jan 1, 2020, the individual refugee status would cease and their cards would no longer be reviewed.