Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India, December 2011
In 2011, a delegation (see "About Us") of people knowledgeable about Chin issues, refugee protection, and humanitarian assistance travelled to India to assess the humanitarian crisis of Chins seeking refuge in Mizoram State, India. The delegation was supported by Chin churches from the United States and by faith-based and other nongovernmental organizations from the United States, India, and Geneva. During the assessment trip to India, the delegation met with a range of leaders from the Chin community and with government, community, and faith-based leaders from the host community. The report is a synthesis of the assessment, research, and stakeholder consultations, including both extensive factual information and recommended solutions to the challenges. The report is not meant as a final say about the situation, but as a catalyst to begin an ongoing, roundtable conversation among Chin, Mizoram, and Indian stakeholders and stakeholders from the international community and concerned countries such as the United States. The goal is to come to a common understanding about the humanitarian challenges and solutions for Chins seeking refuge in Mizoram and for their host community and to address the protracted situation with fairness and compassion.
The Foreword for the Report
We welcome this report as a thoughtful and thorough explanation of the daunting challenges facing a large group of Chin people, an ethnic and religious minority group that has fled over the years from the persecution of the Burmese military regime to Mizoram State, India. The report likewise sheds light on the challenges that Mizoram State and the central government of India face hosting such a large group of people and of the need for the international community, including the United States, to play an active role in supporting both the Chins and their Indian hosts.
We have come to know the Chins in the United States. For years, they have resettled to various parts of our country and formed a strong community of members who are contributing and strengthening our country. Their active voices and involvement in the lives of their own people in the United States, back in Burma, and in the various asylum countries throughout the world have made us aware and concerned about their plight in Burma and in the countries of refuge.
Burma has long been known for its human rights abuses. Its military regime has for years persecuted people based on ethnicity, religion, and political opinion. The outflow of Chin people is a result of those abuses. While we applaud the ongoing political efforts by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and hope for reform of the Burmese regime, human rights violations continue to occur against the ethnic minorities in Burma. As long as the ethnic political issues are unresolved, the refugee crisis and migration will continue.
The Chins in Mizoram State, India, live in a protracted, urban refugee situation and face daunting problems related to protection, livelihood, health, and education. While many of them have been there for years, this report sheds light that new arrivals continue to flee into Mizoram, including many youth who are fleeing forced conscription by the Burmese military. For years, this region of India has been restricted from outside access. The Indian government lifted the restrictions in January 2011, however, with an abatement of civil strife in the region. This report is the first report since the lifting in which the delegation met with not just the Chins in Mizoram, but also with elected officials, church leaders, and the local community. They met in a problem-solving, solutions-oriented roundtable approach to address the humanitarian plight of the Chins and to explore ways to reduce the burden on the host community of Mizoram State.
We express strong support for this report which gives us first-hand information highlighting a critical area of the world on which more attention is needed. During 2011 which marks the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and during the year ahead, we encourage our own government, and our valued colleagues and friends in the Indian government, to carefully consider the report’s analysis and recommendations to work together with the international community to address the situation.
Dan Kosten, Chair, Refugee Council USA Sam Worthingon, President/CEO, InterAction
Statements of Support for the Report
“The Chin community here in the United States feels thankful and blessed that we are free from danger and able to build new lives. But our hearts are always with our Chin people who continue to flee from persecution in Burma and seek refuge in countries around the world. We are called to respond to the needs of our people who have fled to India. This report will help us understand and support our Chin people and our Mizo brothers and sisters as they reach out to them."
--Rev. Dr. C Duh Kam, Executive Minister, Chin Baptist Churches USA
“The humanitarian challenges facing the 100,000 Chins who fled from Burma and the people of Mizoram State who are hosting them are a challenge for the wide community of Christian churches as well. How do we help our Chin brothers and sisters in need and how do we provide support to the front lines to the Mizoram people and churches who are providing them refuge? This report begins to answer those questions.”
--Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and Secretary General, World Evangelical Alliance
“For years, we have had a very strong relationship with many of the churches in northeast India and Burma, and they have been a beacon of light and hope for the Christian community around the world. We understand the struggles they go through as a community, and we stand in solidarity with them to shed light on this critical situation.”
--Rev. Raimundo C. Barreto Jr., PhD, Director, Division for Freedom and Justice, Baptist World Alliance
“This report is timely and is urgently needed to bring attention and real solutions to a situation that has been ignored for far too long. With this well-documented report, it is now time for the international community to work together rapidly and effectively to improve the lives of the Chins in Mizoram. Our Office has advocated for this population in the past. We will continue that effort until real and meaningful solutions have been found for them. With that in mind, we believe that this report is a much-needed step in the right direction.”
--Ambassador Johnny Young, Executive Director, Migration and Refugee Service, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
“We have come to know the courage and perseverance of the Chin people who have fled from Burma and sought refuge around the world, including those resettled in the United States. This report details why they flee Burma, what protection and humanitarian challenges they face now in India, and how churches, governments, and NGOs can work together to help the host country India meet those challenges.”
--Dan Kosten, Chair, Refugee Council USA
“The Chins in Mizoram face daunting protection problems that urgently need more attention from the international community. This report gives a comprehensive firsthand account of the serious humanitarian challenges the Chin and Mizoram people face and ways that the international community can actively engage in helping to meet these challenges.”
--Sam Worthington, President and CEO, InterAction
“As the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, we are committed to empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable. We have seen and heard about the suffering of the Chin refugees in various parts of the world for years, as well as the strength of the Christian community in Mizoram in hosting the Chins. We thank the Chin people and the Mizoram leaders who generously welcomed the delegation to India and hope that this report will spark a strong commitment from the church and broader international community to stand with the displaced Chin people and their Mizoram host communities."
--Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief
“This is the first comprehensive report on the needs of this large group of Chin people in Mizoram State, India. It makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the serious protection challenges facing Chins seeking refuge in India, particularly women and girls and unaccompanied children. The report offers recommendations that can help improve their protection and identify durable solutions.”
--Sarah Costa, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission
"For more than twenty years, the international community has joined the country of Thailand to help meet the humanitarian needs of refugees fleeing across Burma's eastern border. This report shows why it is time to also focus on those fleeing across Burma's western border to India. The generous and welcoming people of Mizoram State, India, need to be supported, as well as the Chins seeking refuge. This report shows why and how the international community can help India to meet the protection and humanitarian needs of the Chins in India. The Lutheran World Federation, Lutheran World Service India Trust, and Lutheran Immigration and Refuge Service are committed to joining with others of good will to be part of the solution for Chins and for the people of Mizoram."
--Ralston Deffenbaugh, Asst. Gen. Sec., Human Rights and International Affairs, Lutheran World Federation