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Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma on Thursday said his government will not collect biometric details of Myanmar and Bangladesh refugees. The Chief Minister said the Centre is providing assistance to the state government to provide relief to refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh and internally displaced people (IDP) from Manipur, who are taking shelter in the state.

Lalduhoma told the state assembly the Home Ministry had directed the state to collect biometric data of Myanmar and Bangladesh refugees in April 2023.

Although the previous Mizo National Front (MNF) government initially processed the initiative towards the Centre direction by conducting training and appointing nodal officers, the Council of Ministers in its meeting held in September last year decided not to conduct biometric and biographic enrolment for Myanmar and Bangladesh refugees, citing it is not advisable to undertake biometric and biographic preparation due to the state assembly election to be held in November that year, Lalduhoma said.

“Our government has decided not to collect biometric details of Myanmar and Bangladesh refugees. During my meeting with the Union Home Minister in January, I told him that the Centre is using the existing portal, which is meant for deportation of illegal immigrants, for collecting biometric details of refugees,” Lalduhoma said while replying to a question from opposition MNF member Robert Romawia Royte.

He said the Myanmar and Bangladesh nationals, who took refuge in the state, feared deportation due to the Centre’s directive to collect biometric data from them. Upon request, the Home Minister gave him assurance that no refugees would be deported until peace is restored in the neighbouring countries, the Chief Minister said.

He said the state government is providing assistance to refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh and IDPs from Manipur with its own resources. He also said the Centre gave ? 3 crore during the MNF rule, and is continuously helping the present state government to provide assistance to the refugees and IDPs.

According to the state Home Department, a total of 32,221 Myanmar nationals have taken shelter in different parts of the state, with Champhai district hosting the highest number of Myanmar refugees at 12,484.

At least 1,167 Bangladeshi nationals are also taking shelter in southernmost Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district, it said. More than 9,000 internally displaced people from Manipur are in Mizoram, the Home department said.

The Myanmar refugees have taken shelter in the state since February 2021 after the military junta seized power, while the Bangladeshi nationals fled to Mizoram in November 2022 due to a military offensive against an ethnic insurgent group by the Bangladesh army in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

The Kuki-Zo people from Manipur took refuge in Mizoram since May last year following ethnic violence with the Meitei community.

The Chin people from Myanmar, the Bawm community from Bangladesh, and Kuki-Zo people from Manipur share ethnic ties with the Mizos.