March 6, 2012 NEWS RELEASE — Report Highlights Plight of Ethnic Chins from Burma Seeking Refuge in India

Press Contact: Jon Pattee, Assistant Director for Media Relations
202-591-5778, jpattee@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, March 6, 2012 – Leading refugee and human rights experts are calling on the Central Government of India and India’s Mizoram State to respond to the protection and humanitarian crisis of up to 100,000 Chins from Burma, says a report released today.

“Our report shows that Chins from Burma face serious protection and humanitarian problems in Mizoram, India,” said Matthew Wilch, a U.S. human rights lawyer and the lead author and editor of “Seeking Refuge: The Chin People in Mizoram State, India.”

The report was presented today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in an event sponsored by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Women’s Refugee Commission, and World Relief.

“LIRS has a strong commitment to and a proven service track record of working with vulnerable populations,” said LIRS Vice President for Mission Advancement Stacy Martin. “The ethnic Chins, who have been languishing in statelessness for far too long, are among the world’s most vulnerable people, which is why LIRS supported this study and why we continue to advocate for their protection.”

The Chins’ forced migration from Burma has occurred continuously since the Burmese military took over in a military coup in 1962 and most heavily since the crackdown in 1988 against the pro-democracy movement in Burma. The plight of the Chins in Mizoram has been largely unknown to the international community due to long-standing travel restrictions on the region and because the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has had no access to Mizoram.

The report documents the protection, livelihood, health, and education challenges the people of Chin State, Burma face as they seek refuge in neighboring Mizoram State, India. The report also describes how their forced migration burdens the host community of Mizoram and the Indian government.

Many of the Chin in India are children at risk, according to “Face to Face: Visits With Forgotten Children in New Delhi,” a report authored by Connie Daniels and released by LIRS in January 2011.

“The United States must provide leadership to help end this humanitarian crisis,” said Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Director for Advocacy. “The United States should work with the Indian government, UNHCR, and other NGOs to provide protection to the Chins, particularly the children and single and widowed women, and to reduce the burden on India. In Mizoram State, India, the Chins seeking refuge need some form of refugee status or registration protection and humanitarian assistance. In New Delhi, the Chin refugees would most benefit from an increase in the strategic use of resettlement.”

About Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

The full text of the report is available online.