UNHCR: Chin refugees no longer need UN protection as Myanmar's Chin State now stable

PETALING JAYA: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that Chin refugees from Myanmar do not need their protection any more as the situation in Chin State is now stable and secure.

Its spokesman in Kuala Lumpur said that an analysis of political, social and security developments in the Chin State over the course of several years has determined that there are positive developments in the state which are durable and sustainable.

The spokesman said that in the last four years, the UNHCR has regularly met with Chin community representatives in Malaysia to discuss the changing conditions in the Chin State and to help them prepare for the eventual time when the UNHCR will no longer be able to provide refugee protection.

"Generally, refugee status and the international protection it affords is only provided by UNHCR for the length of time it is needed," said the spokesman in an emailed statement to The Star Online on Friday.

"Refugee status is no longer provided when a person has secured or is able to secure effective national protection – either in the country of origin or another country," the spokesman added.

It is understood that the decision is a global one and will affect Chin refugees in Malaysia, Thailand and India.

The UNHCR said it will continue meeting and speaking with the Chin community at all levels to explain this policy and the options available to them, and receive feedback on their concerns.

The spokesman said the UNHCR will also continue to work closely with the Chin refugees to help find long-term solutions for the community.

This includes supporting those who wish to return voluntarily and exploring resettlement options with third countries for those who are eligible, and finding temporary stay arrangements, including work, for them in this transitional period.

"For the last four years, UNHCR has also advocated with the Malaysian Government to regularise Chin refugees into its domestic labour migration scheme.

"This would be ideal for communities like the Chin for whom refugee protection will soon come to an end. This would allow them to live lawfully for a transitional period, contribute to the requirements of the economy, and be self-sufficient," said the spokesman.

Hundreds of Chin refugees demonstrated at the UNHCR office on Friday after being told that they would have to go back home by 2020.

The Chin, who are the second largest refugee group in Malaysia, were told by the UNHCR on June 13 that the agency decided to begin the process of ending refugee status for them beginning this August.

UNHCR representative Richard Towle had met with Chin representatives at the office to discuss the policy decisions made by the UN agency.

As of May this year, there are some 157,580 refugees and asylum seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia out of which 31,150 are Chin.

Chin refugees have been in Malaysia for more than a decade, mostly Christians who fled their home country because of persecution against them.

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