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After Manipur, the Mizoram government is likely to initiate biometric enrollment for refugees, particularly from Myanmar, officials said on Thursday. After the military junta seized power in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, at least 34,350 people including women, elderly people and children from the neighbouring country took shelter in 11 districts of Mizoram.

A Mizoram government official on Thursday said that Chief Minister Lalduhoma, during a meeting with the leaders of the state’s influential NGO Young Mizo Association (CYMA), indicated the state government’s plan for biometric enrollment for refugees.

Officials said that of the total refugees, 17,901 people are staying in the rented and relatives’ houses and 16,445 migrants are sheltered in 149 relief camps across seven districts of Mizoram.

Another 1,167 refugees have also taken shelter in Mizoram since 2022 after they fled to the state following alleged ethnic persecution in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

All the refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh belong to the Kuki-Zomi-Chin community and have similar ethnicity and cultural and linguistic ties with the Mizos of Mizoram.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) earlier in 2022 asked both the Manipur and Mizoram governments to undertake the recording of biometric and biographic data of all the refugees.

Though the BJP-led government in Manipur immediately started the process, the then Mizoram government, led by the Mizo National Front (MNF), refused, claiming that the Myanmarese are “brothers and sisters of Mizos and such an initiative would discriminate against them”.

After the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) led by Lalduhoma came to power defeating the MNF in the November 7, 2023 assembly elections, the new state government had hesitation over the biometric enrollment exercise too.

Since the military took over the administration in Myanmar, at least 8,000 Myanmarese have taken shelter in Manipur’s Tengnoupal, Chandel, Churachandpur, and Kamjong districts and the Manipur government has already recorded the biometric details of the majority of the refugees. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said earlier this week that 379 migrants went back to Myanmar voluntarily and as per reports received, the migrants are keen to go back to Myanmar as the cultivation season has started, but they have become hesitant due to bombing by the Myanmar army in the past few days.

He had said that the illegal migrants would be deported back to Myanmar by the district administration, as and when the situation improves in Myanmar.