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India faces threat of bigger influx of refugees from Mynamar

by K.S. Tomar

Due to hunger for power and lack of intense international pressure (zero from Russia and China), Army rulers in Myanmar are resorting to killings of demonstrators who seem determined to overthrow the military regime, which had staged a coup d’état on February 1 and snatched the power from an elected government.

India is facing a new refugee problem as citizens of Myanmar and even some policemen have crossed over to Mizoram, which has made arrangements of their food and shelter on humanitarian grounds. Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has called “not acceptable” the Centre’s order to prevent illegal immigration from Myanmar and ensure speedy deportation of refugees, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide them asylum.

The Manipur Government, however, has withdrawn its letter issued on March 26 to five deputy commissioners to ‘Politely Turn Away’ Myanmar refugees. Now the state government has been taking all humanitarian steps to help refugees, including taking the injured to Imphal for treatment.

America and European Union have imposed sanctions against army rulers who have ignored such pressure while ruthlessly quelling the violence by opening  fire on thousands of demonstrators who have come out on the streets.

The violence and killings by the army has become a daily tragedy but there is no let up in the anger and determination of people to oust the Junta Regime in Myanmar. The military seized control of the South East Asian country after an election which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, weakening the control of army generals.

Myanmar’s military has arrested civilian leaders, including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and trying them by military courts. A year-long state of emergency has been imposed. The army alleged that election fraud had been committed though the electoral commission dismissed the army’s complaints.

Mizoram CM  Zoramthanga recently held a virtual meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister-in-exile Zin Mar Aung of the National League for Democracy, which took place despite New Delhi’s reluctance to accommodate the Myanmarese refugees. Center has asked the border states Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Assam Rifles to identify Myanmar refugees and to not permit them to stay in India. .

India does not have a national policy on refugees as it  is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The government  had circulated  a Standard Operating Procedure to all states and union territories in 2011 to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.

 Human rights officials have stressed the need for enhanced intervention of the international community to stop the bloodshed. UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews emphasized the dire requirement of “robust, coordinated action,” as “words are not enough” to protect lives of people of Myanmar who desperately need the world’s support.

Experts believe that protestors are adopting ‘Three Finger Salute’ to oppose the army coup, as seen in the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. It was first used by the protesting medical workers. Later, it was adopted by youth protesters, after which it became a regular occurrence across all massive protests in Yangon. It has become a symbol of protest by the subjugated and oppressed people of Myanmar.

International pressure on the junta has increased with new US and European sanctions. But Russia’s deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin attended the parade in Naypyitaw, having met senior junta leaders which encourage military rulers to continue their repression. Army commander in chief of Myanmar, Min Aung Hlaing,  describes Russia as a ‘True Friend’.

On the other hand, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand simply  sent representatives to Myanmar to be part of the parade, described as a part of diplomatic protocol.

 The writer is a senior journalist and national columnist based in Delhi.

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Latest News USA

Covid prompted USCIS’ move to video

Social distancing requirements under the pandemic led to the acceleration of a modernization plan that included adding video feeds to the asylum interview process used by the USCIS, according to technology innovation managers at the agency.

Asylum interviews, used to determine whether an applicant has a credible basis for seeking refuge in the United States, have been held in person at USCIS offices and can last for hours. Asylum case managers are stationed at 10 agency offices in major metropolitan areas. However, in March, said Michael Boyce, chief of USCIS’ Refugee, Asylum and International Operations (RAIO) Directorate, Innovation and Design for Enhanced Adjudication Program Office (IDEA), those in-person visits were paused because of the pandemic.

In remarks during a Dec. 1 Government Executive webcast, Boyce said that pause turned out to be a catalyst for the agency’s modernization and digitization of the asylum application process.

“We couldn’t have in-person interviews for humanitarian asylum applications” with the emerging work-at-home and social distancing precautions and mandates, said Jose Pitti, asylum IDEA chief at RAIO during the webcast.

The agency developed a process using tablet computers, local networks and orchestrated movements for office skeleton staff and applicants at those ten offices, according to Diana Navas, headquarter asylum officer, at RAIO.

USCIS began modernization of the application process in late 2019, but the pandemic pushed down the accelerator, according to Boyce, Pitti and Navas.

Since applicants still had to come into USCIS offices for interviews during the pandemic, the tablets were key to the modernized process, according to Pitti, allowing applicants, translators, attorneys and agency officers to be in different rooms in the building and limit in-person contact.

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Latest News New York USA

HAF welcomes House resolution supporting refugee protection for persecuted Hindus, Sikhs from Afghanistan

Washington, DC: On August 14, 2020 Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced House resolution “condemning targeted terrorist attacks against members of the Sikh, Hindu, and other religious minority communities in Afghanistan and supporting refugee protection for Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan in recognition of the systematic religious persecution, discrimination, and existential danger faced by the members of these communities.”

The resolution recognizes that “Sikhs and Hindus are indigenous but endangered minorities in Afghanistan, numbering approximately 700 out of a community that recently included over 8,000 members” and that “members of the Sikh and Hindu communities face existential danger in Afghanistan.” The resolution “supports resettling Sikhs and Hindus from Afghanistan in the United States under the United States Refugee Admissions Program pursuant to section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1157).”

“We commend Congresswoman Speier for introducing a resolution on this important humanitarian issue,” stated HAF Director of Public Policy Taniel Koushakjian. “As Americans, we know firsthand the devastating effects of international Islamist terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda as well as the need to eliminate them and the support they receive from the Haqqani network and state sponsors of terror who really are at the root of this evil.” Koushakjian said.

HAF also lauded PM Narendra Modi’s government for playing an active role in providing humanitarian assistance, including refugee resettlement and transport for those caught in the crosshairs of terrorists. “Hindu Americans and all human rights activists applaud Prime Minister Modi and his government for stepping in and saving lives in the middle of a global pandemic,” Koushakjian said. The first wave of refugees,11 Afghan Hindus and Sikhs, arrived in New Delhi on July 26, 2020.

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coronavirus International Latest News

UN urges countries to protect people on move during COVID-19

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked for protection of people on the move in face of COVID-19.

In a video message for the launch of a policy brief on the impact of coronavirus on people on the move, Guterres asked countries to develop a new mindset on human mobility, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to re-imagine human mobility. Four core understandings must guide the way,” he said.

First, exclusion is costly and inclusion pays. An inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help suppress the virus, restart the economies and advance the Sustainable Development Goals, said Guterres.

Second, human dignity must be upheld in face of the pandemic. Lessons should be learned from the handful of countries that have shown how to implement travel restrictions and border controls while fully respecting human rights and international refugee protection principles, he said.

Third, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Diagnostics, treatment and vaccines must be accessible to all, said the UN chief.

Fourth, people on the move are part of the solution, he noted. “Let us remove unwarranted barriers, explore models to regularize pathways for migrants and reduce transaction costs for remittances.”

Guterres expressed gratitude to countries, especially developing countries, that have opened their borders and hearts to refugees and migrants, despite their own social, economic and health challenges.

People on the move face a protection crisis as more than 150 countries have imposed border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. At least 99 states make no exception for people seeking asylum from persecution. At the same time, fear of COVID-19 has led to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization, he said.

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