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Mizoram set to start collecting biometric data of Myanmarese refugees

 Myanmar refugees in makeshift camps in Mizoram

Aizawl: Mizoram government is all set to undertake collection of biographic and biometric data of all the refugees from Myanmar taking shelter in the state from this week, a senior state home department official said on Monday.

There are over 31,000 refugees from Myanmar taking shelter in the state following the military coup d’etat in the neighbouring country on February 1, 2021 and subsequent crackdown on anti-coup protestors and upsurge in civil war from early September, 2021.

David H. Lalthangliana, Joint Secretary-cum-OSD of the state home department told Zoram Chronicle that demonstration and trial have been completed.

“However, Hnahthial district deputy commissioner’s office could not send officials to attend the master training held in Aizawl. We will impart training to the Hnahthial district officials on Tuesday,” Lalthangliana said.

He said that the data collection process could not be undertaken in Mizoram on time as the format prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs had to be altered to suit collection of data from the Myanmar nationals.

The issue was discussed with Joint Secretary (Foreigners), MHA Anil Malik during which it was found that the format should be changed to suit the collection of data for the Myanmar refugees, he said. 

He said that after the final approval by the MHA of the recommendations of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the National Informatics Centre (NIC), they now can go ahead to collect the biometric and biographic data of the Myanmar refugees in the state.

He added that it may be impossible to meet the deadline, which is end of September, due to the said technical snags being faced in implementation of the data collection.

Officials said that all the Myanmar refugees taking refuge in the state due to turmoil in the neighboring country following military coup have been profiled and temporary identity cards have already been issued earlier.  

The officials added that while Myanmar refugees are treated as ‘illegal immigrants’ by the Manipur government, Mizoram government and the people regard them as their Mizo kindred brothers and sisters in adjoining Chin state, displaced by the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by the military junta.

Meanwhile, a group called ‘India for Myanmar’ on Monday strongly objected to the collection of biometric data of the Myanmar refugees in Manipur, which has commenced from Saturday.

The group demanded immediate ceasing of the forced collection of biometrics from the refugees.

“Taking into account the refugees’ temporary status in India and their plight, forcibly collecting their biometric data disregards their individual consent and compromises their right to privacy, posing an abusive intrusion into their private lives and exploiting their vulnerable situation as refugees,” India for Myanmar said.

“The biometric data collection process, involving surveillance technology to monitor refugees’ movements, raises concerns about the potential misuse of this information by the Indian government which has close diplomatic ties to the Myanmar military. Such biometric systems can perpetuate genetic biases and discrimination, while the fear of constant surveillance hampers people’s rights to free expression and association,” the statement said.

The statement urged the Government of India to adopt humane and democratic approaches while addressing the plight of Myanmar war refugees and to uphold human rights based on humanitarian principles. 

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Zoram Chronicle