TODAY -

Deportation of illegal immigrants
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: March 12, 2024 -



IN an initiative that seems to have resonated with the aspiration of a large section of the people who have been demanding implementation of National Register for Citizens (NRC) so as to identify and deport the illegal immigrants from the state, the government of Manipur has started the process for deporting Myanmarese nationals who illegally entered Manipur following the 1st February, 2021 military coup in the neighbouring country and the subsequent fighting between the pro-democracy forces and military junta.

After seven Myanmarese were flown from Imphal to Moreh in a helicopter on Friday (March 8), 28 more were similarly airlifted to the border town on Saturday. As these 35 were among 77 illegal immigrants to be deported to their native country for the first phase by March 11, we assumed that by now the remaining foreign nationals may have also been airlifted to Moreh, from where all of them would be escorted till Tamu town by the Indian officials of the immigration office to be handed over to the Myanmarese authorities.

With that the process of deportation would be sealed, provided nothing untoward happened. So, technically speaking, deportation of the first batch of the Myanmarese who entered Manipur illegally was under process even though many news outlets had reported otherwise while quoting what the chief minister of Manipur had posted on his X account on March 8, exclaiming, "First batch of Myanmar nationals who entered India illegally deported today."

Along with sharing a video clip of the seven Myanmarese being sent off from the airport in Imphal, the chief minister had also made it clear to underline the point that although India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol "it has given shelter & aid to those fleeing the crisis in Myanmar on humanitarian grounds with a systematic approach".

With the initiative of deporting illegal immigrants from Myanmar coming within weeks of the decision announced by the government of India to fence the entire 1,643-km stretch of its border with Myanmar and do suspend the mutually agreed Free Movement Regime (FMR) that allowed people living on both sides of the international border to travel 16 km into each other's countries and stay up to two weeks per visit without any restriction, people who have been demanding implementation of NRC in Manipur have every reason to be happy about this new development.

The threat posed by the ever-increasing influx from Myanmar to not just the demography of Manipur and other northeastern states which share porous border with Myanmar but also to the internal security is a reality today which even those with dissenting voice against border fencing and scrapping of FMR cannot deny.

However, it would be a fallacy to live under the impression that the problem of illegal immigrants in Manipur would now become lesser with the deportation of 77 illegal immigrants, who were being kept in a foreigner detention centre in Imphal when the real threat is the substantial number of undocumented illegal immigrants who have successfully intermingled with the local population.

When chief minister N Biren Singh said 6,746 Myanmarese nationals had been detected and detained in Manipur between May 3 year last and February 27, 2024 during the recently concluded budget session of Manipur Legislative Assembly, he was only referring to the record maintained following heightened security alertness in the wake of the ongoing ethnic Conflict between the Meitei/ Meetei and Kuki-Chin community, which broke out on May 3 last year.

This record does not reflect the influxes that have been taking place since the military coup in Myanmar in February, 2021.

Many people, who know nothing about the politics of population being played by Kuki-Chin people, tend to cite the military coup as the beginning of illegal influx into Manipur, when the truth is that influxes had been going on for so long that even a former member of Parliament in Myanmar, who settled in Churachandpur since 1995 went on to possess not just an Indian passport but also a voter ID card and is now the president of a militant group which is a signatory to the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the government of India.

So much for the euphoria over deportation of illegal immigrants.



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