The Mizoram government has started the process of issuing identity cards to Myanmar refugees, who have taken shelter in the northeastern state since the military in the country seized power in a coup against the democratically elected government in February 2021, PTI reported.

The identity cards will be valid only in Mizoram and will ensure smooth identification of the refugees, an unidentified home department official told PTI. The documents will also prevent refugees from enrolling their names in the state’s voters’ list, he added.

The card will also mention that the possessor has taken shelter in the northeastern state on “humanitarian grounds”, PTI reported.

On January 30, Mizoram Home Secretary Vanlalngaihsaka had said that the government had started the process of giving identity cards to nearly 16,000 refugees. He, however, added that the drive has slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities in Serchhip district began handing out the cards in February, while Hnahthial processed 1,110 cards on Thursday, according to PTI. Lawngtlai, which shares the border with Myanmar, has issued 4,794 cards so far.

The process will begin in Aizawl this week, Deputy Commissioner Lalhriatzuali Ralte said.

Mizoram shares a 510 kilometres-long border with Myanmar.

In August, the Union government had told Rajya Sabha that more than 8,400 Myanmarese refugees had crossed over into India since the coup. Of them, 5,796 refugees had been sent back, the Centre had said.

However, authorities in Mizoram have put the number of Myanmarese refugees significantly higher. In June itself, the state’s police had said that 9,247 Myanmarese citizens took refuge in Mizoram. They included more than 20 Myanmarese legislators, a police officer had said.