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BANGKOK, 18 MARCH 2019, 08.00am: Following months of anxiety and uncertainty, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has officially announced that Chin refugees shall not be subject to cessation of refugee protection in India and Malaysia owing to continued international protection needs. This reversal comes in response to “the worsening security situation in southern Chin State in Myanmar” (UNHCR, 14 March 2019).
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) welcomes this decision to halt the review process for Chin refugees and recognise their continued need for international protection. UNHCR has exercised due diligence in monitoring and responding to the evolving and deteriorating conditions in Southern Chin State.
APRRN Secretary General, Themba Lewis, responded positively to the development. Lewis stated that “cessation guidelines require a high threshold be reached in order to trigger the removal of international protection because the risks are very high”. He continued, “this includes demonstrating enduring and fundamental change in the country of origin, as well as recognising the risks that may result from the repatriation itself. UNHCR has joined the consensus among our membership regarding ongoing risk, and we look forward to working with UNHCR to continue to make refugee rights a reality, not only for Chin, but for all displaced persons across the region”.
APRRN also lauds the Government of Malaysia in their recent commitments to the best interests of populations in need of international protection in the country. In February 2019, Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah publicly stated that the government will not forcibly return Chin refugees without safe and dignified passage, and that return policies will be reevaluated. Saifuddin also noted government consideration of plans to allow refugees access to education, healthcare and livelihoods. Chin refugees are the second largest group of population at risk who have sought asylum in the country.
Whilst protection resumes, it is not a cause to outright celebration. Conditions still prohibit safe return for Chin refugees, demonstrating persistent challenges to achieving positive change. Chin State remains heavily militarised, and human rights abuses are well documented. Continued violence in Southern Chin state has generated new displacement.
APRRN continues to dedicate itself to working closely with governments, affected
populations, civil society, and NGOs to further strengthen protection and ensure rights for
refugees in the region.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is an open and growing network consisting of 350 civil society organisations and individuals from 28 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific region. APRRN aims to advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection through joint advocacy, capacity strengthening, resource sharing and outreach.
Evan Jones, Programme Coordinator, APRRN
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