Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma on Saturday said that even though the Centre cannot give refugee status to Myanmar nationals, it is ready to collaborate with the state government to provide them relief, reported PTI.

“People from Manipur, who fled their homes due to ethnic violence, will also be looked after with the help of the central government,” Lalduhoma said at a press conference on his return to Aizawl from Delhi after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Following a military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, at least 35,000 Chin refugees have sought shelter in Mizoram. Around 12,000 Kuki-Zo people from Manipur have also fled to Mizoram after ethnic clashes between the Kuki and Meitei communities broke out in the state in early May.

Mizos share strong ethnic ties with Manipur’s Kuki and Myanmar’s Chin tribes.

A day after his Zoram People’s Movement party stormed to power in the Mizoram Assembly elections, Lalduhoma had said he would continue the support for refugees shown by former Chief Minister and Mizo National Front leader Zoramthanga. In September, Zoramthanga had refused to follow the Centre’s directive on collecting biometric data of Myanmar refugees in the state.

Meanwhile, the Union government said in a press release that Shah has assured Lalduhoma that the Centre will not deport Myanmar nationals who have sought refuge in Mizoram since February 2021 until normalcy is restored in their home country, reported PTI.

The Centre had recently announced plans to fence a 300 km stretch of India’s open boundary with Myanmar. This would end the Free Movement Regime, which allows citizens from either country to travel up to 16 kms into the other’s territory without a visa. On Saturday, Lalduhoma appealed to the Centre to cancel any such proposal.

In the run-up to state Assembly elections, the Mizo National Front had projected itself as a Zo nationalist party and warned that another outfit might not be strong enough to withstand the Centre’s pressure to push back the refugees to Myanmar. Zo is an umbrella term for the Kuki people of India’s North East states, the Mizos and the Chin people of Myanmar.

After winning 27 out of 40 seats in the state, the Zoram People’s Movement has said that the state’s position on the issue of refugees would not change. “The issue is humanitarian,” Lalduhoma, a former Indian Police Service officer, had told Scroll.